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Japan Hit by Powerful Earthquake

An earthquake with an estimated magnitude of seven-point-two rattled a wide area of Japan on Tuesday. While there are dozens of people reported injured, the casualties and damage appear relatively light.

The tremor off the Pacific Coast in northern Japan swayed skyscrapers in Tokyo, more than 300 kilometers from the earthquake's epicenter. In the northern city of Sendai, part of the roof of a sports center caved in, but rescuers say most of the injuries there are not serious. A tsunami alert was issued for part of northern Japan's Pacific coast. The largest waves observed hitting the shore were reported to be only ten centimeters high.

Japan Meteorological Agency official Yasuo Sekita says the offshore quake would have been much more destructive if it had been closer to land. But Mr. Sekita warns that people in northern Japan should still be prepared for powerful aftershocks that could cause damage.

Landslides triggered by the earthquake, which was more than 40 kilometers below the sea surface, were reported in several rural locations. Electricity was knocked out to 17,000 households in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures and at least one building caught fire in Sendai.

Several nuclear power plants automatically shut down for a brief period and bullet train service in the affected area also was suspended. Flights in and out of several airports, including those in Tokyo, were temporarily halted while runways were inspected for damage.