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Thursday, 14th January 2016
In General Japan News,

Northern Japan rocked by magnitude 6.7 earthquake

An earthquake occurred off the coast of Hokkaido in northern Japan today (January 14th), although no tsunami warning has followed.

The shock had an initial magnitude of 6.7 and hit at 12.30pm local time, the Japan Meteorological Agency confirmed.

While the epicentre was at a depth of 50 kilometres below the surface of the sea, the nearest major settlement is the town of Urakawa at the southern end of Hokkaido.

The lunchtime quake came as a surprise, but only two minor injuries have been reported and no significant damage so far.

Haru Matsutakeya is a resident of Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital, which lies 170 kilometres from the epicentre of the earthquake.

Just before it struck, her mobile phone and that of others around her in her workplace sounded a warning alarm, allowing them to turn off the kerosene stove and brace themselves for the tremors.

She told journalists: “It was pretty strong. It went on about 40 seconds.”

Disaster prevention officials are still assessing the impact of the earthquake, but early signs seem positive.

Those responsible for nuclear safety in the area say that two power plants and the Rokkasho processing plant are entirely unaffected.

According to the NHK television station, bullet train services in the south of the region were halted for a short time, but have since resumed their schedules.

Local train lines in Hokkaido underwent safety checks with no damage reported and have also returned to normal functionality.

The New Chitose Airport and the main airport in Hokkaido were closed temporarily while the runways were checked, with no problems detected.

Alastair Donnelly, director of Inside Asia Tours, said: “Earthquakes of quite significant magnitude are not uncommon in Japan and the surrounding seas, but due to strict building regulations, high-tech construction and the preparedness of the authorities, damage and disruption is usually minimal.

“I am sure some residents of Hokkaido would have experienced quite a shake this afternoon, but thankfully on this occasion nobody suffered serious injury and there was only a brief pause to bullet train and other transport services in the North of Japan.”