A third potential source of danger, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, also withstood Friday’s earthquake. The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power, said it had found no signs of damage to the site’s crippled reactors or of radiation leaks.
Workers at the plant, who are struggling to treat and dispose of huge quantities of contaminated water used to cool the reactors before they can begin the long, dangerous process of removing melted fuel, were ordered to take shelter inside the facility. No one was injured, according to plant workers.
But any notions that the battered northeast had seen the end of new fallout from last year’s disaster were quickly dismissed when the meteorological agency announced that Friday’s quake was not the result of fresh seismic activity, but an aftershock from March 11.
There were other reminders of the tragedy after Friday’s earthquake struck out at sea, 176 miles east of the city of Sendai: TV announcers imploring viewers to remember last year's quake and tsunami, and the appearance on-screen of red and yellow lines marking out the areas most at risk.
On Friday, as on the day of Japan’s worst disaster in more than six decades, the initial quake was followed by powerful aftershocks and the ever-present risk of another tsunami warning.
Narita Airport closed briefly for safety checks and phone lines were temporarily jammed by the sheer volume of calls. Several much smaller tsunami waves, measured in inches, arrived in other parts of the northeast coastline, including Soma city, which lies just outside the 12-mile evacuation zone imposed around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.