Tokyo, Mar 14: Small tsunami waves hit Japan's northeastern coastline today, officials said, after a strong earthquake rocked the region a year on from the country's worst post-war natural disaster.
The 6.9-magtinude quake struck 26.6 kilometres below the seabed off the northern island of Hokkaido in the Pacific at 1438 IST, the US Geological Survey said.
Earlier, Japan's meteorological agency rated its magnitude at 6.8. The 20 centimetre (eight inch) wave, confirmed by the Japanese agency, prompted local authorities to issue an evacuation warning for coastal residents before it hit land.
The waves hit several locations in Hokkaido and Aomori prefecture, which was one of the areas in Japan's northeast devastated by last year's disaster.
The agency had initially said a tsunami could be as high as 50 centimetres, but US monitors said there was no Pacific-wide tsunami threat.
The tsunami warning—which was lifted at 1040 GMT— comes after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a monster wave on March 11 last year that killed more than 19,000 people and crippled Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant.
The tsunami swamped cooling systems at the Fukushima site and sent three reactors into meltdown, spewing radiation into the environment and sparking the world's worst atomic accident in a generation.
There were no immediate reports of damage at nuclear facilities in the area affected by Wednesday's quake.
A spokesman for Tohoku Electric Power, which operates two nuclear power plants in the country's northeast, said the facilities were unaffected.
“There was no damage to our nuclear power facilities following the earthquake,” he told AFP.
“We have not monitored any change in radiation levels around the facilities following the quake.”
The meteorological agency also warned the tsunami could reach the Kuril islands, off Hokkaido, which Russia has controlled since Japan's surrender at the end of World War II.
Later in the day, another quake with a magnitude of 6.1 struck near the epicentre of Wednesday's jolt, but there was no tsunami warning following the latest tremor, the USGS and Japanese authorities said.
On Sunday, Japan fell silent to remember last year's tragedy, with tearful families gathering in towns and villages across the country's shattered northeast to remember those they lost when the towering waves smashed ashore.
Tens of thousands were forced to evacuate a 20-kilometre exclusion zone immediately around the Fukushima plant, while many families with small children moved away from the prefecture completely.
On Sunday's anniversary, thousands protested against nuclear power in demonstrations across the world.
Japan has temporarily shut most of its 54 commercial nuclear reactors, but plans to re-open the plants has set off a highly-charged debate in a country prone to earthquakes.
On Monday, a group of Japanese citizens filed a lawsuit to prevent the restart of a nuclear power plant, warning that there was little proof the reactors would were quake-resistant.
The disaster also hammered Japan's already struggling economy, stoked fears about radioactive contamination in the food chain and set off multi-billion dollar reconstruction efforts.