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Earthquake causes small tsunami in Japan; no Hawaii threat

By Star-Advertiser staff and the Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 6:56 a.m. HST, Mar 14, 2012

TOKYO >> A series of earthquakes rattled Tokyo and northeastern Japan today but caused no apparent damage or injury in the same region hit by last year's devastating tsunami.

There was no tsunami threat to Hawaii or the Pacific region, said the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the magnitude-6.8 quake struck at 7:08 p.m. Wednesday (11:08 p.m. Tuesday in Hawaii.) and was centered about 146 miles south of Kushiro, Japan, on Hokkaido island, at a depth of about 6 miles below the sea surface.

Several other towns issued evacuation orders or advisories to residents nearest the coast. A tsunami of 8 inches was observed in the port of Hachinohe in Aomori, northern Japan, about one hour after the quake struck the region. Smaller changes were also reported in several locations on Hokkaido island and Aomori prefecture.

An aftershock of magnitude 5.9 struck followed about two hours later.

About three hours later, a magnitude-6.1 quake shook buildings in the capital. It was centered just off the coast of Chiba, east of Tokyo, at a rather shallow 6 miles below the sea surface.

Narita International Airport briefly closed runways for inspection but later resumed operation. Several local train services were suspended for safety checks.

There were no abnormalities reported at nuclear power plants after the two earthquakes, operators said. Most of Japan's nuclear plants are offline for safety inspections.

On Sunday, Japan marked the first anniversary of the massive magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami that left about 19,000 people dead or missing, wreaked widespread damage along the northeastern coast, and triggered the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. Rebuilding has yet to fully begin in many coastal communities.

The town of Otsuchi in Iwate prefecture, where more than 800 died in last year’s tsunami, issued an evacuation order to all households along the coast as a precaution, said prefectural disaster management official Shinichi Motoyama. No damage or injury was reported from the quake so far, he said.

Iwate was heavily damaged by last year’s earthquake and tsunami. Thousands of aftershocks have shaken the region since then, nearly all of them of minor or moderate strength.

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