A powerful earthquake rocked northern Japan early on Tuesday, briefly disrupting cooling functions at a nuclear plant and generating a small tsunami that hit the same Fukushima region devastated by a 2011 quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
The magnitude 7.4 earthquake, which was felt in Tokyo, sent thousands of residents fleeing for higher ground as dawn broke along the northeastern coast.
There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries hours after the quake hit at 5:59 a.m. (2059 GMT Monday). It was centered off the coast of Fukushima prefecture at a depth of about 10 kilometers (6 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.
A wave of up to 1.4 meters (4.5 ft) high was recorded at Sendai, about 70 km (45 miles) north of Fukushima, with smaller waves hitting ports elsewhere along the coast, public broadcaster NHK said.
Television footage showed ships moving out to sea from harbors as tsunami warnings wailed after alerts of waves of up to 3 meters (10 feet) were issued.
“We saw high waves but nothing that went over the tidal barriers,” a man in the city of Iwaki told NTV television network.
Aerial footage showed tsunami waves flowing up rivers in some areas, and some fishing boats were overturned in the port of Higashi-Matsushima before the JMA lifted its warnings.
The U.S. Geological Survey measured Tuesday’s quake at magnitude 6.9, down from an initial 7.3.
All Japan’s nuclear power plants in the area have been shut down in the wake of the March 2011 disaster, which knocked out cooling systems at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, causing reactors to melt down and spew radiation into the air, soil and sea.