Japan shook off 'aftershock' in 2011 earthquake of 9.0 magnitude

Japan shook off 'aftershock' in 2011 earthquake of 9.0 magnitude

A powerful earthquake that hit Japan on Saturday was an aftershock of the devastating 9.0 magnitude quake that struck the same area almost 10 years ago, according to the national Meteorological Agency.

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the country's east coast at 11:07 p.m. Saturday. At least 48 injuries were reported in Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures, according to state broadcaster NHK, but there were no major casualties.

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake has struck off the eastern coast of Japan, injuring more than 100 people, leaving almost a million homes without power and causing a landslide.

It hit the Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures, the same areas that were devastated by a more powerful earthquake that triggered a tsunami and killed over 18,000 people just under 10 years ago, causing a meltdown at a nuclear power plant.

The epicenter hit about 46 miles (74 kilometers) northeast of Namie, a coastal town 60 miles from Fukushima, according to the United States Geological Survey. The earthquake measured about 36 miles in depth. No tsunami warning was issued.

Saturday's quake took place in the same area as the March 11, 2011, earthquake that caused the country's worst nuclear disaster on record, when three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant melted down, releasing radioactive materials into the air.

More than 20,000 people died or went missing in the 2011 quake and tsunami, while hundreds of thousands more lost their homes. More than 100,000 people were evacuated from the area.

Authorities have spent the past ten years cleaning up the area -- a massive effort that experts say will take another few decades to complete.

The latest earthquake was recorded at 11:08pm local time on Saturday at a depth of 60 kilometres in the Pacific Ocean.

It triggered a landslide in Fukushima and shook buildings in the Japanese capital Tokyo hundreds of kilometres away.

Despite these on going efforts, when Japan hosts the Olympic Games this year the torch relay is scheduled to start its journey in Fukushima on March 25, 2021 -- a symbol of recovery and rebuilding in the area.

The latest incident did not cause a tsunami, and power had been restored to most homes by Sunday morning, local authorities said.

But several thousand households remained without water, and residents lined up with plastic jugs to receive water from trucks.

"As 2021 will mark the 10th anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay will aim to showcase the recovery of the areas worst affected by the disaster," the Olympic committee said on its website.

According to public broadcaster NHK, 104 people were injured, most of them spraining their ankles while falling on stairs or getting cut by broken glass.

Tokyo Electric Power, which runs the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant that was hit in the 2011 disaster, said the water used to cool fuel rods near the reactors had spilled because of the shaking.

However, Saturday's earthquake is a reminder that the events are 2011 are not entirely behind the Fukushima region.

But there were no radiation leaks or other irregularities, the company tweeted.

Japan's Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said it would take several days before the full damage to the nation's cities and towns would be known.

Early Sunday morning, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reassured the public that "no abnormalities" have been reported at any of the nuclear plants in the region after Saturday's quake.

Speaking to reporters, Suga said the damage is still being assessed, and asked residents in the affected area to stay indoors and be prepared for aftershocks. 

Video shared on social media showed boxes, books and other items scattered on floors.

Experts warned of possible aftershocks.

Shinkansen bullet trains to much of northern Japan were suspended due to damage along the tracks.

Service along one line was not expected to be restored until at least Tuesday.

The March 11, 2011, earthquake in Japan that set off a massive tsunami led to the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world's most seismically active areas.

Japan accounts for about 20 per cent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

The earthquake triggered landslides and uprooted sections of a major expressway, affecting both prefectures. Embankments along the road collapsed, covering the road and burying guardrails in mud, NHK reported.

About 850,000 households in the Kanto and Tohoku regioins, which include greater Tokyo, lost power after the quake, NHK reported. Power is now gradually being restored.