TOKYO, JAPAN (BNO NEWS) -- A strong earthquake struck off the coast of northeastern Japan on early Monday morning, seismologists and witnesses said, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. No tsunami alerts were issued.
The 6.1-magnitude earthquake at 5:32 a.m. local time (2032 GMT Sunday) was centered about 39 kilometers (24.2 miles) southeast of Ōfunato, a coastal city located in Iwate prefecture. It struck about 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) deep, making it a shallow earthquake, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).
Tremors with an intensity of 4 on the Japanese seismic scale of 0 to 7 were felt in several areas along the coast in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. No abnormalities were reported at nuclear power plants in the region, which was heavily damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami last year.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS), which measured the earthquake at 6.4 on the regional moment magnitude (Mw) scale, estimated that some 223,000 people along the coast may have felt strong shaking. It estimated that another 11.4 million people in the wider region may have felt weak to moderate tremors.
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. "This earthquake poses no tsunami risk," JMA said in a brief statement, adding that damage was unlikely.
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 15,861 people killed while 3,018 others remain missing and are feared dead. Some 325,000 people rendered homeless remain in temporary housing.
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