FUKUSHIMA, JAPAN – A strong earthquake hit Tuesday morning off the east coast of Japan near Fukushima, the site of the 2011 earthquake-spawned tsunami that killed almost 19,000 people, Japanese and U.S. agencies said.
The Japan Meteorological Agency put the earthquake at magnitude 7.3 and issued a tsunami warning for Fukushima Prefecture and urged immediate evacuations. The first wave, measuring about 2 feet, arrived in Onahama port in Iwaki City in Fukushima Prefecture at 6:49 a.m. (4:49 ET Monday), the weather agency reported.
Tsunami advisories were issued for a wide area of Japan’s Pacific coast, including Miyagi and Iba prefectures.
Reports of damage from the quake weren’t immediately available. But a relatively small 3-meter (10-foot) tsunami was expected at any moment, the national broadcaster NHK said in an on-air report.
“Please evacuate right now,” it said. “Don’t stop. Don’t try to go back.”
The U.S. Geological Survey, which put the quake at magnitude 6.9, described it as having moved along a lateral slip, saying quakes along faults that move laterally don’t create the vertical movement associated with large tsunamis.
Jake Emen, an American staying in a 16th-floor hotel room in Tokyo, almost 150 miles away, told NBC News that his room began “rumbling” about 6 a.m. local time and then started to sway for several minutes.
“After settling down, an emergency announcement was made by the hotel indicating the building was stable but to avoid using elevators until they were tested,” Emen said.
Both agencies said the quake was recorded about 6 a.m. Tuesday (4 p.m. ET Monday) at a depth of only 6.2 miles; shallow quakes generally cause more destruction because they’re so close to the surface.
More than 18,500 people were killed by a tsunami that was created after a magnitude-9 earthquake hit northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station suffered meltdowns in three of its six reactors, leaving a huge area of land unusable for decades.