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Cleanup begins after 7.4 quake shakes north Japan, killing 4

  • KYODO NEWS VIA AP
                                Products are scattered at a convenience store in Fukushima, Japan.

    KYODO NEWS VIA AP

    Products are scattered at a convenience store in Fukushima, Japan.

  • KYODO NEWS VIA AP
                                Furniture and electrical appliance are scattered at an apartment in Fukushima, Japan.

    KYODO NEWS VIA AP

    Furniture and electrical appliance are scattered at an apartment in Fukushima, Japan.

TOKYO >> Residents in Fukushima and Miyagi were cleaning their homes after a sleepless night following a powerful 7.4-magnitude earthquake that struck off the northern Japanese coasts, smashing furniture, knocking out power and killing four people.

The region is part of an area devastated by a deadly 9.0 quake and tsunami 11 years ago that caused nuclear reactor meltdowns, spewing massive radiation that still makes some parts uninhabitable.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters Thursday morning that four people died during the quake and the cause of their deaths are being investigated, while 107 others were injured. A man in his 60s in Soma city died after falling from the second floor of his house while trying to evacuate, and a man in his 70s panicked and suffered a heart attack, Kyodo News reported earlier.

The Japan Meteorological Agency early Thursday lifted its low-risk advisory for a tsunami along the coasts of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures. Tsunami waves as high as 30 centimeters (11 inches) reached shore in Ishinomaki, about 390 kilometers (240 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

The agency upgraded the magnitude of the quake to 7.4 from the initial 7.3, and the depth from 60 kilometers (37 miles) below the sea to 56 kilometers (35 miles).

Residents in hard-hit areas found new damages in daylight Thursday, cleaning their homes, putting fallen furniture and appliances back into place and scooping up broken dishes and windows.

At a hotel in Yabuki town in the Fukushima prefecture, where its wall was broken, front door thrown out of place, and dishes were broken, employees were starting to clean up.

“I don’t even know where to start,” hotel president Mineyuki Otake told NHK.

NHK footage showed broken walls of a department store building that fell to the ground and shards of windows scattered on the street near the main train station in the inland prefectural capital of Fukushima city. Roads were cracked and water poured out from pipes underground.

On Thursday, Self-Defense Forces delivered fresh water to residents in Soma, Iitate and several other coastal towns in Fukushima where water systems were damaged.

Footage also showed furniture and appliances smashed to the floor at apartments in Fukushima. Cosmetics and other merchandise at convenience stores fell from shelves and scattered on the floor. In Yokohama, near Tokyo, an electric pole nearly fell.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, which operates the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant where the cooling systems failed after the 2011 disaster, said Thursday that workers at the site — which is being decommissioned — found some tanks holding treated radioactive water were out of alignment due to the rattling, and what could be a steel beam fell from a roof of the No. 4 reactor building, which has no fuel inside.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said a fire alarm went off at the turbine building of No. 5 reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi but there was no actual fire. Water pumps for the spent fuel cooling pool at two of the four reactors at Fukushima Daini briefly stopped, but later resumed operation. Fukushima Daini, which survived the 2011 tsunami, is also set for decommissioning.

More than 2.2 million homes were temporarily without electricity in 14 prefectures, including the Tokyo region, but power was restored at most places by the morning, except for about 37,000 homes in the hardest hit Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures, according to the Tohoku Electric Power Co., which services the region.

The quake shook large parts of eastern Japan, including Tokyo, where buildings swayed violently.

East Japan Railway Co. said most of its train services were suspended for safety checks. Many people formed long lines outside of major stations while waiting for trains to resume operation late Wednesday, but trains in Tokyo operated normally Thursday morning.

A Tohoku Shinkansen express train partially derailed between Fukushima and Miyagi due to the quake, but nobody was injured, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said.

Matsuno, the top spokesman, said, “We are doing the utmost in rescue operations and putting people’s lives first.”

He urged residents in the affected areas to use extra caution for possible major aftershocks for about a week.

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