Two of the strongest earthquakes to strike anywhere on earth this year hit Japan early Friday morning local time but caused little damage, probably because of their depth and distance from shore.
The first, a magnitude 8.0 quake, struck at 4:50 a.m. local time Friday and was followed by a 7.0 magnitude quake at 6:08, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. The focus of the first quake was 50 miles offshore south of the small town of Erimo, at the southeast tip Japan's northern main island of Hokkaido, and 21 miles deep. The shaking was strong enough to wake sleepers in Tokyo, 480 miles to the south.
By the end of the day, public broadcaster NHK reported that a survey of local hospitals indicated there were no deaths though more than 472 people were injured, mostly by flying glass and toppling furniture. Two sport fishermen were reported missing and feared washed away by one of the series of 3- to 4-ft tsunami that hit coastal areas in the hours afterthe temblor. The waves lifted small boats onto quaysand washed away parked cars. At one point, 20,000 residents had left their homes for higher ground. But tsunami watches were lifted at 6 p.m.
Liquefaction was suspected in the displacement of a wharf in Kushiro port, which sank about 2 feet. Local broadcasts also showed embankment failures blocking roads and rail lines. One person was hurt when a train car derailed. Numerous roads were cracked and there was subsidence around bridge abutments. But aside from the partial collapse of a few isolated smaller structures, there were no reports of serious damage to buildings or bridges. The suspended ceiling of the Kushiro Airport Terminal building was shaken apart, leaving the floor littered with hundreds of gypsum ceiling panels. The ceiling of the control tower also collapsed. The airport was closed until 3 p.m. local time, causing the cancellation of 32 of the day's 36 scheduled flights. Normal operations were expected to resume on Saturday.
In some areas, local water lines were broken, reportedly leaving nearly 7,000 homes without water. About 16,300 homes were temporarily without power because of the automatic safety shut-down of a local thermal power station.