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Japan earthquake sparks Russian tsunami fears

by Andy Potts at 11/03/2011 14:28

Russia’s Pacific coast is on tsunami alert after Japan was rocked by a massive earthquake.

The tremors in the Far East topped 8.8 on the Richter Scale, and it was feared that the Kuril Islands, Sakhalin and the Pacific port of Vladivostok were threatened by 10-metre waves.

However, the force of the quake has pushed the most powerful waves away from Russia’s coast, with significantly smaller waves heading towards the islands north of Japan.

And by mid-morning officials announced that there was little danger to settlements in eastern Russia.

 

Waters rising

The quake struck just before 9 am Moscow time, killing at least 95 people with the casualty count rising all the time according to reports in Japan.

The epicentre was beneath the sea off north-eastern Japan, and 10-metre waves soon crashed into the shorelines nearby.

And by 1 pm there were reports of rising water levels in the Sea of Okhotsk and three-metre waves hitting the shores of the Kurils.

Officials on the islands said that there was no panic among the local population and there had been no damage to buildings, RIA Novosti reported.

A total of 300 people have been evacuated from coastal settlements, an official in Iturup said.

 

Nuclear fears calmed

As bigger waves buffeted parts of Japan, the nuclear power plant at Fukushima was forced to make an emergency shut-down – followed by three other atomic stations near the quake zone.

But Prime Minister Naoto Kan said experts had found no evidence of a radiation leak, the Kyodo agency reported.

And he explained that the shutdown was an automatic response to an emergency scenario.

Rafael Arutyunyan, deputy director of Russia’s Institute for the Safe Development of the Nuclear Industry, told RIA Novosti that there was little danger of a nuclear disaster.

“The earthquake was serious but I see no threat to nuclear power plants in Japan,” he said. “The fact is that nuclear plants around the world are built to maximum security specifications, including calculations about possible earthquakes.

“I do not see any problem in this situation.”

While the country’s nuclear plants are apparently secure, a fire has broken out at an oil depot on Chibu island, sending a 30-metre plume of smoke into the sky.

 

Offers to help

Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev was quick to pledge aid to Tokyo to help tackle the aftermath of the quake.

Speaking at a state council meeting in Khakasia, he said: “We are certainly ready to help our neighbours in tackling the consequences of this earthquake.”

Meanwhile there are fears that the quakes may continue, with more tremors at 7.0 on the Richter Scale predicted within a month.

 

Kamchatka volcanoes

Further up the same geological faultline scientists report seismic activity on Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula.

Three active volcanoes have been throwing up columns of ash in recent weeks, and more than 420 seismic events were reported around Kizimen.

The trio have been assessed as an “orange” threat to aviation, although regular airline routes do not come close to this region.

Kizimen has been increasingly active since Oct. 2010, while Karymskaya has been erupting since 1996 and Shiveluch intensified its activities in 2006.

 

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