News Three seriously injured in powerful Japan earthquake described as ‘a 2011 aftershock’
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Three seriously injured in powerful Japan earthquake described as ‘a 2011 aftershock’

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Residents in north-eastern Japan have cleaned up clutter and debris in shops and homes after a strong earthquake set off a landslide on a highway, damaged buildings and parts of bullet train lines and caused power blackouts for thousands of people.

The 7.3-magnitude tremor shook the Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures that 10 years ago were hit by an earthquake that triggered a tsunami and a meltdown at a nuclear power plant.

More than 140 people suffered mostly minor injuries, many of them by falling objects and cuts while stepping on broken glass.

Three people were confirmed with serious injuries, but there were no reports of deaths, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that runs the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant that was hit by the March 2011 disaster, said the water used to cool spent fuel rods near the reactors had spilled because of the shaking. But there were no radiation leaks or other irregularities, TEPCO said.

The quake did not cause a tsunami because the epicentre was deep at 55 kilometres beneath the ocean.

Noriko Kamaya, a Japan Meteorological Agency spokesperson, said in a news conference that the quake is considered to be an aftershock of the 9.1 magnitude quake in 2011.

Power had been restored by early Sunday, although some bullet train services were still halted. East Japan Railway Co. said the bullet train on the northern coast will be suspended through till Monday due to damage to its facility.

Workers were clearing up a major coastal highway connecting Tokyo and northern cities where a major landslide occurred.

Several other roads were also blocked by rocks.

Saturday’s powerful rattling less than a month before the 10th anniversary of the 2011 triple disaster was a frightening reminder of the earlier tragedy for the residents in the region.

“It started with minor shaking, then suddenly became violent,” said Yuki Watanabe, a convenience store employee in the Fukushima town of Minamisoma, told the Asahi newspaper.

“I was so frightened,” she said, adding it reminder her of the 2011 quake.

Experts warned of more aftershocks. Many residents spent the night at evacuation centres, where tents were set up as part of coronavirus protection measures.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, expressed sympathy for those who had suffered damage and injuries.

-AAP