Strong quake hits northern Japan, tsunami and evacuation warnings issued

earthquake Japan 6TOKYO, Feb 17 (Reuters) By Mari Saito – A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.9 was recorded off northeastern Japan on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, and the Japan Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami warning.

Japanese broadcaster NHK warned residents a one metre-high (three feet) wave was expected to hit the coast of Iwate prefecture in northern Japan at approximately 2330 GMT. It reported that evacuations had been ordered for towns closest to the coast in Iwate.

The quake was measured at a depth of about 10 km (6 miles). The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said there was no danger of a Pacific-wide tsunami.

Tohoku Electric Power Co, which operates the Onagawa and Higashidori nuclear plants in nearby Miyagi and Aomori prefectures, said it saw no irregularities at the facilities after the quake.

All 48 of Japan’s nuclear reactors remain offline after a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster in northeastern Japan.

A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co, the operator of Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini nuclear plants, said there were no irregularities at the plants. The quake was felt only weakly in the area, he said.

Unlisted Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd also said there were no irregularities recorded at its nuclear fuel reprocessing facility or other plants in Aomori.

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world’s most seismically active areas. Japan accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

(Additional reporting by Chris Gallagher and Osamu Tsukimori in TOKYO and Jane Wardell in SYDNEY; Editing by Paul Tait)