Japan escaped largely unscathed on Friday after a magnitude 7.3 earthquake shook the north-east coast. It was, however, a chilling reminder of the 9.0 quake that struck the area in March 2011, triggering a tsunami that killed almost 20,000 people and a triple meltdown at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Initially, the appearance on TV screens of a tsunami warning, and repeated announcements to remember last year’s tragedy and flee the coast, prompted fears of a second disaster in less than two years in the worst-affected prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima.
Less than an hour later, a tsunami washed ashore in Ishinomaki, one of the hardest-hit towns in last year’s tragedy, where the rebuilding process has barely begun. Mercifully, this time the wave was just a metre high. Two hours after the quake struck 150 miles offshore at 5:18pm local time, the meteorological agency cancelled its tsunami warning.