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Powerful Earthquake Strikes off of Japanese Coast

A powerful Magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck Northern Japan on the night of Wednesday, March 16, 2022, at approximately 11:30 p.m. Japan Standard Time. While this tremor was approximately 60 times less severe than the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, the earthquake itself moderately affected a large portion of a country still recovering from the prior deadly disaster. 

During the greatest shaking from the quake, buildings in Tokyo and other major cities in eastern Japan were seen swaying for an extended period of time, with many exhibiting large cracks and structural damage. In addition to impacted buildings, a number of public utilities and urban infrastructure were taken offline for several hours in the aftereffects of the earthquake. More than two million homes in fourteen prefectures lost power during the night, while many water mains burst and flooded streets. Most internet service was restored after twelve hours once all lines were examined for damage or any risks. Other damages include the derailment of several trains, such as the pictured Shinkansen bullet train. No one was injured, but rail and metro service were disrupted in several Japanese cities within the Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, Ibaraki, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

After the earthquake, the Japan Meteorological Authority issued a low level tsunami alert warning individuals of potential waves from the quake. Waves from the predicted tsunami reached approximately ten inches in height north of Tokyo, in Ishinomaki. After some small preliminary waves, the Japanese Meteorological Agency and other Pacific Rim nations issued lifts on their tsunami advisories. No abnormal waves were recorded in areas outside of northeastern Japan, minimizing damage across the country. Approximately fifty thousand people who evacuated in preparation of tsunami waves returned to their homes early Thursday morning after tensions eased.

Japan’s Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant — which was severely damaged in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and continues to release elevated levels of radioactive material into the atmosphere — reported no abnormalities. Although some equipment used to pump cool water into the plant was briefly rendered inactive and a fire alarm went off, the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings reported that Fukushima was mostly unharmed by the earthquake. Fukushima continues to be decommissioned slowly as cleanup efforts continue in Japan.

In a speech to Japan’s parliament and several media releases, members of the Japanese Cabinet offered key updates on the state of disaster response efforts. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno reported that government officials had been dispatched to investigate and address severe damage, saying “We are doing our utmost in rescue operations and putting people’s lives first.” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters and a parliamentary session that four people had died due to the earthquake and ninety-seven others were injured. Later, Kishida tweeted “Please first take action to save your life,” urging individuals to remain secure and stationary until the government could effectively reach all areas.