Huge natural disaster strikes Japan, triggers tsunami warning

Yamagata in Japan

Yamagata in Japan

The meteorological agency issued a tsunami alert for the coasts of Ishikawa, Niigata and Yamagata prefectures and warned of a wave of one metre.

More than 1,500 people took shelter at evacuation centers in Murakami city and elsewhere in Niigata.

The agency added: "At the southern terminus of the Japan Trench the intersection of the Pacific, North America, and Philippine Sea plates forms the Boso Triple Junction, the only example of a trench-trench-trench intersection in the world. But so far there have been no report of injuries or casualties".

The natural disaster struck at a late hour in mainly sparsely populated areas so it was not easy to evaluate the damage immediately. All of its seven reactors were already shut down, NHK said.

The broadcaster showed images of some cups and glasses smashed on the floor of a restaurant.

Residents have been told to get out of the water and "leave coastal regions immediately". It also forecast rain in part of the region on Wednesday.

The Secretariat of the Nuclear Regulation Authority said there are no abnormalities at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

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There were multiple small aftershocks after the main quake.

Japan is on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire where numerous devastating earthquakes have been recorded as well as volcanic eruptions. Last June, a deadly tremor rocked the Osaka region, killing five people and injuring more than 350 others.

A tsunami of up to one meter could have caused some flooding and damage in low-lying coastal areas and river banks, though much of Japan's coastline is guarded by sea walls.

Niigata itself has a history of large earthquakes.

Japan's meteorological society reevaluated the quake, stating it was actually 6.8 magnitude-strong, while its epicenter was located at a depth of some 10km.

The area was also hit by a magnitude-6.8 quake in 2007, leaving 15 people dead.

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