Fukushima Hit by 7.3 Quake [Updated]

A powerful earthquake hit Fukushima measuring 7.3 magnitudeFukushima, Japan has been hit by an earthquake off its coast with a 7.3 magnitude today, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which monitors quakes around the world.

A tsunami warning was issued in the nearby area, expected to strike before 1:40 pm Eastern Time. However, U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued no widespread tsunami warning issued for areas of the Pacific outside Japan.

The earthquake originated 231 miles east of the Fukushima Prefecture, near the island of Honshu. It was 6.2 miles underground, but reports sat it shook buildings as far away as Tokyo, 300 miles distant.

Another earthquake off Fukushima two years ago created a 133-foot tsunami that flooded the prefecture, resulting in widespread destruction which killed nearly 16,000 people. The tsunami also caused a meltdown at the area’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, forcing 150,000 to flee the area who still cannot return to their homes due to the radiation. Much of this radiation was carried back out to sea by the flood, where some believe it has had a dramatic effect on marine organisms across the Pacific. The government now acknowledges that 300 tons of water from Fukushima is spilling into the sea every day; according to National Geographic, this is enough water every eight days to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool.

UPDATE: A spokesman for Tepco, the Japanese utility charged with overseeing recovery efforts from the nuclear disaster, has reported that there was no damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant area today, and no measurable spike in radiation levels during or after the quake.

UPDATE 2: The tsunami warning has been rescinded by the Japanese Meteorological Society, who issued it. They said the first waves had hit cities along a 200-mile stretch of coastline including the cities Ishinomaki-shi Ayukami, Kamaishi, and Soma, but that none of the waves were taller than about three feet.

UPDATE 3: Portions of this article have been corrected or clarified.

Fears from the Fukushima nuclear disaster resulted in closure of nuclear plants in different places around  the world, including in Japan, which has 50 nuclear reactors, but has had only two running since the disaster. The tsunami from the 7.3 quake following this latest misfortune was expected to hit Fukushima not far from the nuclear facility, which is only 160 miles northeast of Tokyo.

The tsunami today was expected to be closer to one-meter (3.3 feet) in height, and would not likely inflict further damage on the irradiated area.

The French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety called the leaks from the site “the largest single contribution of radionuclides to the marine environment ever observed.” Data from at least one private company monitoring, Nuclear Emergency Tracking Center, LLC, that monitors radioactivity, indicates the U.S. West Coast is still being bombarded by radiation from the meltdown, though others have labeled these reports alarmist. At the same time, the level of danger posed by Pacific seafood that may have been irradiated by the disaster is only beginning to be understood. Some disputed sources have even linked low salmon populations off Alaska and Canada, sea lion deaths on the California coast, and other effects on marine life to radiation from the disaster.

Tepco also recently reported that radiation levels around Fukushima were 18 times higher than they had previously reported, and also revealed the existence of an ongoing leak which has spilled 300 tons of contaminated water into the ground from Fukushima.

The quake comes on the same day as Reuters issued a special report on corruption and worker exploitation in the clean-up efforts at Fukushima. The story recounts eyewitness accounts of workers being forced to work under false pretenses while taking unnecessary risks, often for low pay after being promised higher wages. Recent and publicly documented incidents have exposed a number of workers to hazardous amounts of radiation. The article further alleges ties to organized crime in the form of the Yakuza, Japan’s mafia-like network of gangster families, with criminal “brokers” pocketing recruited workers’ hazard pay for themselves.

There is not yet word of casualties or any new effects on the nuclear disaster from this latest seismic disturbance. Information on today’s earthquake will be updated as it develops. For now, there is little else known other than the fact that this latest blow to the Fukushima region took the form of a 7.3 quake.


Written By: Jeremy Forbing



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