TOKYO, Japan (BNO NEWS) -- A strong earthquake struck just off the coast of northeastern Japan on early Tuesday evening, seismologists and witnesses said, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. Shaking was felt as far away as Tokyo.
The 6.4-magnitude earthquake at 8 p.m. local time (1100 GMT) was centered about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northeast of Miyako, a city in Iwate Prefecture. It struck about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).
Tremors with an intensity of lower 5 on the Japanese seismic scale of 0 to 7 were felt in several areas along the coast, which was heavily damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami last year. Light shaking was also felt in Tokyo, the country's capital, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.
Officials at Tohoku Electric Power Co. said no abnormalities were reported at its nuclear power plants in Onagawa, Miyagi, and Higashidori, Aomori. Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., meanwhile, said no problems were detected at its plant for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel in the village of Rokkasho in Aomori.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS), which measured the strength of the earthquake at 6.0 on the regional moment magnitude (Mw) scale, estimated that some 8,000 people near the epicenter may have felt 'very strong' shaking. Some 1.4 million others may have felt moderate to strong shaking.
Because earthquakes with a magnitude below 7 do normally not generate tsunamis, neither JMA nor the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami watch or warning. "There may be slight sea-level changes in coastal regions," JMA said in a statement, adding that there is no threat of a tsunami.
Japan sits on the so-called 'Pacific Ring of Fire', an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin which is prone to frequent and large earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions also occur frequently in the region.
In March 2011, an enormous 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of northeastern Japan, generating a devastating tsunami. The earthquake and resulting tsunami left at least 15,854 people killed while 3,155 others remain missing and are feared dead. Some 325,000 people rendered homeless remain in temporary housing.
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