Japan's location makes it
prone to strong earthquakes

The quake, which packed the same devastating power as the one that hit Kobe in 1995, caused house fires in the downtown area of Sendai city and rocked buildings as far away as Tokyo 302 km (189 miles) to the south.

 

Authorities at the downtown Haneda airport briefly suspended takeoffs and landings to check the condition of runways while bullet train service to northeastern Japan was also stopped.

 

In Sendai, closer to the epicenter, television showed pictures of at least two buildings on fire and fire trucks on the scene. Sendai has a population of just over one million and is the largest city in the mostly agricultural northeastern Touhoku region.

   

"I was surprised because it shook so strongly," an official in Morioka city, about 500 km north of Tokyo, told NHK.

 

"It shook strongly enough to make you want to hang on to something," said the official, who was on the sixth floor of a building when the quake hit.

 

The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 and was centered 60 kilometers below the sea floor off the coast of northeastern Miyagi prefecture, Japan's Meteorological Agency said. It struck at 6:24 pm local time.

  

Local officials, quoted by public service broadcaster NHK, said some areas were suffering electricity and water outages immediately after the quake but had no further details. Major highways and railways were also closed as officials checked for damage.

 

The Japanese Meteorological Agency said there was no danger of a tsunami, a powerful tidal wave that can be stirred up by seismic activity, developing.

 

Another earthquake, measuring 4,9 on the Richter scale, hit tremor-prone Taiwan on Monday with no immediate reports of injuries or damage.