A magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck off Japan's east coast early Saturday local time, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake prompted Japan's emergency agencies to issue a tsunami advisory for the region that includes the crippled Fukushima nuclear site. Tsunamis of up to 15 inches were reported at four areas along the coast minutes after the quake.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the earthquake, which occurred at a depth of 6.2 miles, according to the USGS. Japanese television showed images of harbors with calm water. The quake was centered about 170 miles off Fukushima and was felt in Tokyo, some 300 miles away, The Associated Press reported.
The Japan Meteorological Agency had earlier issued a tsunami advisory for Fukushima prefecture, the site of the country’s 2011 nuclear disaster, which resulted from an earthquake-triggered tsunami.
A tsunami advisory was also issued shortly after the quake for nearby areas including Iwate prefecture, Miyagi prefecture, Ibaraki prefecture and parts of Chiba prefecture. All of the advisories have since been canceled.
"It was fairly big and rattled quite a bit, but nothing fell to the floor or broke," Satoshi Mizuno, an official with the Fukushima prefectural government's disaster management department, told the AP by phone. "We've had quakes of this magnitude before. Luckily, the quake's center was very far off the coast."
Mizuno said the operator of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co., said no damage or abnormalities have been found so far. Since being severely damaged in the 2011 disaster, the plant has been shaken by a series of minor tremors.
Mizuno confirmed that several plant workers near the coast, who were preparing for a typhoon, were ordered to evacuate to higher ground.
All but two of Japan's 50 nuclear reactors have been offline since the March 2011 magnitude 9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami triggered multiple meltdowns and radiation leaks at the Fukushima plant, around 160 miles northeast of Tokyo. About 19,000 people were killed.
A series of mishaps this year at the Fukushima plant have raised international concerns about the operator's ability to tackle the continuing crisis.
Worried Japanese regulators met with Tokyo Electric officials this week to discuss how to prepare for a typhoon that could dump heavy rain on Fukushima on Saturday. And the chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, Shinichi Tanaka, has scheduled a Monday meeting with Tokyo Electric's president to seek solutions to what he says appear to be fundamental problems.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press