Just past 11 P.M. on the night of February 13, an earthquake of approximately magnitude 7.3 struck Northeastern Japan. This is the same region which suffered severe damage in the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami almost exactly 10 years ago.
The epicenter of the quake was 71 km off the coast of Minamisoma, in the north of Fukushima Prefecture. There was no tsunami alert issued for this quake.
Many respondents on the ground reported feeling a long quake of almost a minute, which strongly shook the cameras of NHK national broadcasting office during the live reporting.
The most seriously affected regions were Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures, but the quake was felt over a wide swath of eastern Honshu, Japan’s main island, including Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures, and throughout the capital city Tokyo, over 200 km away. Minor tremors were also felt further to the west, in Aichi Prefecture.
Images of property damage in Fukushima Prefecture, one of the areas hit by the Valentine's Eve earthquake.
Damage to Land and Property, More than 100 Injured
The tremor caused damage to land and property and widespread discomfort in regions near the epicenter.
Over a hundred people were injured, according to NHK, as the quake shattered glass windows, caused shelves to topple over, and elderly people to fall down and hit their heads, among others damage. As of February 14, however, there have been no deaths reported from the earthquake.
As of the morning of February 14, most of the injured were in Fukushima Prefecture, which reported more than 50 people with injuries, and Miyagi Prefecture with over 30 injured. There were also a handful of injured in the prefectures of Chiba, Saitama, Gunma, Ibaraki.
Landslides were reported in Miyagi Prefecture on portions of the national highway known as the Joban Expressway. Roads in the area have been blocked and cars removed due to the instability of the damaged roads.
According to the Chief Cabinet Secretary’s morning press conference at 11 A.M. on February 14, three fires were reported, which were promptly dealt with.
There has been widespread impact on public transportation, however. The Tohoku Shinkansen suspended operations on part of its lines for safety checks on February 14 and February 15. The Akita Shinkansen and Yamagata Shinkansen were also affected, as were bus lines using the Joban Expressway.
Several areas were affected by power outages during the night. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) reported that at one point over 170,000 households were affected by the blackout. However, by the morning of February 14, it was estimated that just over 300 households were still without electricity.
Also related to the earthquake, at least 2,900 households were reported to be without water on the morning of February 14, but operation was gradually being restored.
Due to the inconveniences caused, 64 locations were made available as evacuation centers for the night.
As of the morning of February 14, TEPCO has confirmed the safety and security of the nuclear plant in Fukushima, where the March 11, 2011 earthquake-caused tsunami led to a nuclear disaster.
The Government Takes Action
The Japanese government, led by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, was active overnight in order to respond to the crisis.
The Japanese Self Defense Forces had been dispatched to affected areas as of the morning of February 14, to help with cleaning up the landslides and damage assessment.
In a Sunday morning Cabinet meeting on February 14, Prime Minister Suga gave an overview of the known damage as of this point in time.
"There are many injured people in Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures, but no one has died at this time,” he reported. “We confirmed landslides and water outages in various places along the Joban Expressway. Fires broke out in both prefectures, but they are now extinguished. The power outages that occurred mainly in Fukushima Prefecture are currently being resolved."
Beyond that, he pledged to continue addressing the situation, asking citizens to exercise caution over the following week. "We are doing our utmost to respond to the crisis, such as getting a grasp on the extent of damage and proceeding with cleanup. We ask the victims to pay attention to aftershocks for the next week or so."
‘An Aftershock of the Earthquake of 2011’
The Japan Meteorological Agency held a press conference regarding the details of the earthquake shortly after 1:00 A.M. on February 14.
Noriko Kamaya, the Earthquake Information Planning Officer of the Japan Meteorological Agency, explained how the strength of the tremor was felt over a wide area. "It is thought that the tremors were strong over a wide area because the magnitude was 7.3 and the epicenter was as deep as 55 km."
Further commenting on the characteristics of the earthquake, she said: "It is considered to be the aftershock of the huge earthquake that caused the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Seismic activity tends to gradually decrease as a whole where aftershocks occur, but the annual number of occurrences continues to be huge, so we still need to be careful."
Finally, Kamaya called on everyone to exercise caution about the potential for damage in the following days, warning:
"In areas where the shaking was strong, there is an increasing risk of houses collapsing and sediment-related disasters. Please try to keep yourself safe as much as possible, and avoid entering places at risk (of collapsing). For the next week or so, please be careful as there could be aftershocks of a magnitude of up to 7."
Author: Arielle Busetto