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Magnitude-6.6 Quake Hits Japan Near Stricken Nuclear Plant

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan
Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan postponed a press conference scheduled for 5:50 p.m. to mark the one-month anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami, the Cabinet press club said. Photographer: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg

A magnitude-6.6 earthquake hit Japan about 35 miles from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s stricken nuclear power plant, shaking buildings in the capital city and causing fires to break out in the northeast of the country.

The quake struck at 5:16 p.m. local time 38 kilometers (24 miles) west of Iwaki and 163 kilometers from Tokyo at a depth of 10 kilometers, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. USGS revised the magnitude down from 7.1, while the Japan Meteorological Agency lowered its rating to 7.0 from 7.1.

The aftershock struck exactly one month after a magnitude-9 temblor and tsunami left 27,493 dead or missing and knocked out power at Tokyo Electric’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, causing radiation to leak. National broadcaster NHK showed footage of fishing boats heading out to sea to avoid a tsunami, and reported one person died in Ibaraki from the latest quake.

A warning for a tsunami as high as 2 meters (6.6 feet) to hit parts of the eastern coast of Honshu was issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency, and later lifted.

The temblor registered as high as minus-6, the third-highest level on the Japanese scale of seismic intensity, in parts of Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures, the agency said.

Fires in Iwaki

Several fires broke out in Iwaki, an official at the city’s fire department said today by phone. There was also a fire in Asakawa, west of Iwaki, while two cars were crushed in a landslide, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency’s website. One injury was reported, the agency said.

Fire trucks were called to Daiichi Sankyo Co.’s Onahama factory in Iwaki after lightning struck a liquefied natural gas tank, Yasunori Sasaki, a Tokyo-based spokesman said by phone today. The fire was put out at 6:40 p.m., Sasaki said.

The aftershock briefly knocked out external power at the Fukushima plant, disrupting the injection of cooling water into reactor Nos. 1, 2 and 3 at the station. Power has been restored, Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said in a televised briefing.

Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan postponed a press conference scheduled for 5:50 p.m. to mark the one-month anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami, the Cabinet press club said.

Calls Restricted

NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan’s largest mobile phone company, is restricting up to 80 percent of voice calls following the quake. Calls are being restricted in 14 prefectures, including Tokyo, spokeswoman Naoko Minobe said by phone today.

East Japan Railway Co. restarted four of five bullet-train lines after temporarily halting services, spokesman Kentaro Matsumura said by phone today. The company is checking the Yamagata bullet train for damage, he said.

Tohoku Electric Power Co. said power is on and cooling systems are running at its Onagawa and Higashidori nuclear plants in northern Japan. About 220,000 homes, mostly in Iwaki city, are without power, spokesman Sota Notsu said by phone. The company’s thermal-power plants weren’t affected by the quake, he said.

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