Strong earthquake shakes northern Japan; no tsunami warning

Map locates Urakawa, Japan


TOKYO (AP) — A strong earthquake struck just off the coast of Hokkaido in northern Japan. No tsunami warning was issued, and there were no reports of major damage.

The magnitude-6.7 quake hit about 12:30 p.m. (0330 GMT) Thursday, near Urakawa town on the southern tip of Hokkaido, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. It said the quake’s center was located at a depth of 50 kilometers (30 miles).

The lunchtime quake caught many residents by surprise.

“It was pretty strong. It went on about 40 seconds,” said Haru Matsutakeya, 45-year-old resident in Hokkaido’s capital of Sapporo, about 170 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of the epicenter. Just before the quake struck, an alarm on her cellphone and of several others around her sounded at a center for disabled people where she works. Matsutakeya rushed to turn off a kerosene stove in the room and stood by silently.

Hokkaido police said that two elderly women aged 96 and 86 fell down and suffered minor head injuries elsewhere in Sapporo.

Hiroyuki Kenai, a disaster prevention official at the Urakawa town was having lunch in his office when the quake hit. He told Japan’s NHK national television in a telephone interview that officials were still assessing whether there was any damage.

Two nuclear power plants and the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in the quake-hit region were not affected, nuclear safety officials said.

Tohoku “bullet train” service south of the region was temporarily suspended but has since resumed, according to NHK. Some local train lines in Hokkaido were suspended for safety checks, though there were no immediate reports of damage.

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