Tokyo – An earthquake measuring 7.9 struck off the northeast coast of Japan today, shaking buildings in the capital, Tokyo, causing “many injuries”, at least one fire and triggering a 10m tsunami warning, NHK television and witnesses reported.
The public broadcaster showed black smoke billowing from a building in Odaiba, a Tokyo suburb, and bullet trains to the north of the country were halted.
Television showed cars bobbing in water along side fishing boats. A 50cm tsunami hit Japan’s northern coast.
“The building shook for what seemed a long time and many people in the newsroom grabbed their helmets and some got under their desks,” Reuters correspondent Linda Sieg said.
“It was probably the worst I have felt since I came to Japan more than 20 years ago.”
The US Geological Survey verified a magnitude of 7.9 at depth of 15.1 miles and located the quake 81 miles east of Sendai, Honshu. The stock market extended its losses after the quake was announced.
Japan’s northeast Pacific coast, called Sanriku, has suffered from quakes and tsunamis in the past and a 7.2 quake struck on Wednesday.
In 1933, a magnitude 8.1 quake in the area killed more than 3 000 people. Last year fishing facilities were damaged after by a tsunami caused by a strong tremor in Chile.
Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world’s most seismically active areas. The country accounts for about 20% of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.