Quakes cut out power in Tokyo

By Shingo Ito, AFP

TOKYO — A series of strong earthquakes including one with a magnitude of 6.7 hit the Tokyo area early Thursday, briefly cutting off power to more than 4,000 homes and causing light injuries, officials said.

Japan’s meteorological agency warned that more moderate aftershocks could strike, although there were no fears of a tsunami.

The strongest quake hit at 1:45 a.m. (1645 GMT Wednesday) in the Pacific Ocean off Ibaraki prefecture, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

Six people were lightly injured, including an 18-year-old boy who was hit by his falling stereo speaker, according to the disaster management agency.

There were no reports of damage to houses, it said.

Power was cut off to some 4,500 households in Tsukuba City, northeast of Tokyo, but has since been restored, the industry ministry said.

The latest quakes have dealt no damage to nuclear power plants or nuclear processing facilities, it said.

But Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) was doing final checks on nuclear power plants in Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan, an atomic safety official at the ministry said.

“They are on tight patrol at nuclear power plants” although the plants are continuing operating, the official said, adding government inspectors would give a final confirmation of safety later Thursday.

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake rocked central Japan in July last year, killing 11 people and shutting down the world’s largest nuclear power plant owned by TEPCO.

The impact of the latest tremors was strongest in Ibaraki and adjacent Tochigi prefecture where it cracked holes in weak buildings.

“We felt a strong jolt, but there are no reports as of now of any major damage,” an Ibaraki police spokesman said.

The strongest earthquake, which struck at a depth of 40 kilometers (25 miles), followed a series of tremors off the Pacific coast early Thursday, including one measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale.

The quakes rattled buildings in the heart of Tokyo, where Chinese President Hu Jintao was staying on a rare visit to Japan.