A 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck off northeastern Japan yesterday, the most powerful since last year’s record temblor, swaying buildings in Tokyo for several minutes and temporarily disrupting rail and airline traffic.
The quake hit at 5:18 p.m. local time, with an epicenter about 240 kilometers (150 miles) off the coast of Miyagi prefecture at a depth of 10 kilometers, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. At least 26,000 people were temporarily evacuated and the captain of one fishing boat is missing, the Asahi newspaper said.
While buildings in Tokyo shook, the quake did little damage, according to the national police agency. Ten people in five prefectures suffered minor injuries, Kyodo News reported. Tokyo Electric Power Co. said its Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear reactors were unaffected.
The yen fell 0.1 percent to 82.49 per dollar at 5 p.m. in New York yesterday, after gaining as much as 0.5 percent immediately following the earthquake. The yen advanced 0.2 percent to 106.67 against the euro.
“The yen is being bought in a knee-jerk reaction to headlines on the earthquake,” Marito Ueda, senior managing director in Tokyo at FX Prime Corp., said last night. “Given the difference in the magnitude of this earthquake to last year’s, the impact on the currency has been quite limited.”
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda yesterday said he will do everything needed to deal with the impact of the earthquake.
The temblor was an aftershock of the record 9-magnitude quake on March 11, 2011, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. That temblor, 355 times more powerful than yesterday’s, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, triggered a tsunami that left more than 19,000 people dead or missing, and caused meltdowns of three nuclear reactors.
Tokyo Electric ordered plant workers to seek refuge in quake-proof buildings at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi and Dai-Ni nuclear stations after the tsunami warning, spokesman Hisashi Otsuka said by phone.
Waves as high as 1-meter hit the coast of Ishinomaki, with no visible damage in images broadcast on NHK. The ports of Soma in Fukushima prefecture and Sendai in Miyagi reported 40-centimeter waves, NHK and Kyodo reported.
Sony Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Renesas Electronics Corp. reported no damage at their facilities in the area.
Operations at refineries of JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp. in northeast Japan and Idemitsu Kosan Co. in Hokkaido weren’t affected, according to the companies. More than 200 homes were without power in the northern prefecture of Aomori.
Tsunami warnings were lifted two hours after the quake as police continued to check for casualties, according to spokesman Minoru Tanahashi.