7.4 quake hits Japan, tsunami warnings issued, nuclear plants lose power (updated)


The Japan Meteorological agency reports a 7.4 quake in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan, which hit at 11:32pm local time. USGS reports the same, about 60 miles (96km) from Sendai, Japan, and about 25 miles (40km) below the sea-bed. Tsunami warnings, the first since the catastrophic March 11 quake and tsunami, are being issued throughout the region. This quake is considered to be an aftershock of the March 11 seismic event.

NHK TV is reporting that the nuclear safety agency says the nuclear power plants in the region have been shut down, but that workers at Fukushima Daiichi are being (or have been) evacuated just now. TEPCO, the operator of the stricken nuclear plant, tweeted just now that they are evaluating whether this quake has caused any further damage but that there are no reports of injuries and no new information suggesting new damage.

The area where this quake struck is the same region most affected by the March 11 disaster, so the earth there is generally unstable, and populations in the area are already vulnerable.

Police report that the number of people confirmed dead in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami is now 12,608, with an additional 15,073 listed as missing.

Update: No reports of tsunami damage, sounds like the wave weakened before hitting land. The tsunami warning has been lifted.

Update: At Tohoku Electric's Onagawa nuclear power plant, in Miyagi, 2 of the three external power grids have lost power. The three reactors at this site have been in cold shutdown since March 11. No change has been observed in radiation levels today.

Update: NISA (Japan nuclear safety agency) press conference, live notes: several nuclear power plants in the area have lost power, and are now relying on emergency diesel power sources.


Notes from a live TEPCO press conference taking place now. A representative is on NHK TV saying:

"Once the tsunami warning has been lifted, we will go to reactors 3 and 4 to check, but we have not heard of any situation at the reactors or the vertical tunnels. At Fukushima Daini we have looked into any issues with the facilities and personnel and have verified everything is alright. Power is not interrupted." "For Fukushima Daiichi: no reported injuries. There were two workers near reactors 1 and 2, and there were 7 workers near the intake site who have not been injured; all have all taken shelter in our seismic-resistant building. we are continuing the injection operation at reactors 1, 2, and 3; water injection is continuing. As for reactor No. 1 where nitrogen has been injected, we have seen no changes. The central control room is located remotely. Reactors 1, 2, 3: water levels have remained the same. Reactors 5, 6, no anomalies. Reactors 3 and 4, every 6 hours we visit the central control rooms. the next scheduled visit was for 2400 hours. As soon as safety is verified and the tsunami warning is lifted we will visit the control rooms for reactors 3 and 4."
Update: NHK is reporting at least one fire in Yamagata city, widespread blackout in Yamagata; traffic lights not working in Sendai.

Update: Here's a handy map showing where nuclear power plants are located in Japan. (Source: METI, via Daniel Garcia, via Antonio Delgado).



  1. Those poor people. Just one thing after another. They certainly need our aid and support right now.

    1. “Those poor people. Just one thing after another.” — Don’t worry, nature really is not a vengeful god. It’s just random. Which means sooner or later we’ll all experience some natural disaster or other. The difference is that we won’t be prepared. So I’m not really sure just who is “lucky” here.

  2. May the One who created plate tectonics smarten us enough to deal with the consequences and comfort the survivors.

      1. Sounds like Zeus!

        seriously though..

        My sympathies go out to the people in that area. Their aftershocks are more massive as most of the world’s once-in-a-lifetime earthquakes.

    1. Thankfully, that 6.5 quake caused no reported injuries or deaths, and was orders of magnitude smaller.

      We do not post items about every seismic event everywhere, but we have been covering the Japan news closely, given the massive human toll (nearly 28K dead or missing as of today), and the still-unresolved nuclear crisis.

  3. They’re estimating the tsunami will be about 1 meter by the time it hits the coast of the worst hit areas.

  4. Considering the robust building codes, areas already washed out, and Tsunami warning systems any estimates how bad this actually is for Japan and surrounding areas.

  5. Oh, man. Horrible. So glad we’re doing a benefit next week at my yoga studio. Need all the help they can get.

  6. I’m up in Hokkaido, in the far north of Japan, and I definitely felt that, lots of shaking in the apartment, very nerve-wracking. The tsunami sirens up here haven’t come on, thank god, I’ve never heard anything scarier or eerier, I just hope everything’s alright further south. Earth, I’ve told you before – that’s enough fidgeting.

  7. just watching BBC news
    – they showed video of an explosion in a Japanese city (toyko?) but had no information about what happened. looked to my untrained eyes like an electrical explosion though

    btw, the Onagawa power plant came through the last earthquake so well that it was used as a refugee camp for tsunami victims

  8. Building nuclear power plants in the ring of fire is irresponsible beyond measure. Any honest evaluation of risk would necessarily conclude that this is the inevitable outcome.

    Indeed, it makes no sense to blame Nature for operating in clearly discernible patterns, that have left their marks on every landscape for millennia, instead of blaming those who choose to ignore her generous signs and portents, and grasp for power and profits by placing their fellow humans in harm’s way.

    Anyway, in any disaster, digging out your neighbors usually works better than cursing the gods.

  9. Thanks, Hedgy. My mom just joined FB, so I’m not going to “like” that map. She’s freaked out enough as it is.

    Am I so very sick? I want to have sound effects on that map. Sound effects and a good night’s sleep. And not one other thing.

  10. We felt a few wobbles again last night… but in western Japan we have all been spared the destruction of these recent disasters. It just hurts to watch family and friends in the east struggling to get by – and now this.

    Fortunately many have been bracing for aftershocks and there were very few fatalities or injuries last night.

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