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Small tsunami waves hit Japan after 7.3-magnitude earthquake

A 7.3-magnitude quake strikes off Japan's northeastern coast, temporarily triggering some tsunami waves reaching up to three feet, but there was no concern of a widespread tsunami. TODAY's Erica Hill reports.

Updated at 5:40 a.m. ET: Tsunami waves up to 3 feet high hit the coast of Japan Friday, after a strong earthquake in the sea that shook buildings 300 miles away in Tokyo.

The temblor was registered at a magnitude of 7.3 and struck at 5:18 p.m. local time (3:18 a.m. ET), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The earthquake hit in the same area as the devastating quake and tsunami in March last year that killed nearly 20,000 people and triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.

Friday's quake struck about 200 miles southeast of Kamaishi, the USGS said. The epicenter was 6.2 miles beneath the seabed, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Buildings in Tokyo swayed for at least several minutes, but there were no early reports of damage or injuries.

Coastal residents told to flee to higher ground
NHK television broke off regular programming to warn that a strong quake was due to hit shortly before the impact was felt. Afterward, the announcer repeatedly urged all near the coast to flee to higher ground.

The quake triggered a tsunami warning for the Miyagi Prefecture, which was at the center of the 2011 disaster. It also sparked tsunami advisories for Pacific Coast areas of several other prefectures.

But by 5:20 a.m. ET, two hours after the quake, the Japan Meteorological Agency had canceled all tsunami advisories and warnings.


A handout image released by the U.S. Geological Survey shows the location of Friday's earthquake off the northeast coast of Japan.

Still, a batch of tsunami waves, measuring about 3 feet tall, hit the town of Ishinomaki, in Miyagi Prefecture, about an hour after the earthquake, according to Japanese television. Another tsunami wave, measuring about a foot tall, was detected at Ofunato.

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"I was in the center of the city the very moment the earthquake struck. I immediately jumped into the car and started running away towards the mountains. I'm still hiding inside the car," Ishinomaki resident Chikako Iwai told Reuters.

"I have the radio on and they say the cars are still stuck in the traffic. I'm planning to stay here for the next couple of hours," Iwai said.

A 6.2-magnitude aftershock struck at about 3:31 a.m. ET, but no damage or injuries were immediately reported.

Kyodo News via AP

People crowd at Sendai railway station in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, on Friday after the 7.3-magnitude earthquake disrupted train services.

Devastating 2011 quake and tsunami
The magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that slammed into northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011 devastated much of the coast.

All but two of Japan's nuclear plants were shut down for checks after the earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant in the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. 

Worker at tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear plant: Firm sent crews into danger

The government declared in December that the disaster was under control, but much of the area is still free of population.

Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, reported no irregularities at its nuclear plants after Friday's quake.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda canceled campaigning in Tokyo ahead of a Dec. 16 election and was on his way back to his office, but there was no immediate plan to hold a special cabinet meeting.

NBC News' Arata Yamamoto, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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