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Major quake hits Japan

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TOKYO, March 16, (AP): A powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Fukushima in northern Japan on Wednesday evening, triggering a tsunami advisory and plunging more than 2 million homes in the Tokyo area into darkness. The region is part of northern Japan that was devastated by a deadly 9.0 quake and tsunami 11 years ago that also triggered nuclear plant meltdowns, spewing massive radiation that still makes some parts uninhabitable. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no longer a tsunami threat though the Japan Meteorological Agency kept its low risk advisory in place.

NHK national television said tsunami waves of 20 centimeters (8 inches) already reached shore in Ishinomaki, about 390 kilometers (242 miles) northeast of Tokyo. NHK footage showed broken walls of a department store building fell to the ground and shards of windows scattered on the street near the main train station in Fukushima city, about 60 kilometers (36 miles) west from the coastline. The Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, which operates the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant where the cooling systems failed after the 2011 disaster, said workers found no abnormalities at the site, which was in the process of being decommissioned. Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said a fire alarm went off at the turbine building of No. 5 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi but there was no actual fire.

Water pumps for the spent fuel cooling pool at two of the four reactors at Fukushima Daini briefly stopped, but later resumed operation. Fukushima Daini is also set for decommissioning. The Japan Meteorological Agency said the quake hit at 11:36 p.m. at a depth of 60 kilometers (36 miles) below the sea. Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force said it dispatched fighter jets from the Hyakuri base in Ibaraki prefecture, just south of Fukushima, for information gathering and damage assessment. NHK said there were reports of fire, damage to buildings and falling rocks in Iitate town in Fukushima. There was no word on any casualties. More than 2.2 million homes were without electricity in 14 northeastern prefectures including the Tokyo region, serviced by TEPCO and another utility, Tohoku Electric Power Co., according to the companies. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said power was expected to be restored soon after midnight Wednesday. The quake shook large parts of eastern Japan, including Tokyo, where buildings swayed violently.

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