Strong quake rocks northeastern Japan
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Justin Godfrey and a friend were practicing chip shots on Misawa’s Gosser Memorial golf course when the ground started dancing at 6:24 p.m. Monday.
“It was crazy. The greens were moving from side to side; it lasted quite a long time,” said Godfrey about the earthquake that struck central Japan early Monday evening.
About two miles away, on the ninth floor of an on-base apartment tower, his wife, Staff Sgt. Amber Godfrey, said she grabbed her 5-year-old son Tyler and headed for the bathroom doorway as the quake’s intensity increased.
“Tyler freaked out,” she said. “It really scared him.”
Japan’s Meteorological Agency placed the quake’s initial magnitude at 7.0 on the Richter scale with its epicenter 37 miles under the Pacific Ocean, 60 miles northeast of Sendai, Japan, in Miyagi Prefecture. No tsunami alert had been issued, however. No deaths were reported, but at least 98 people were hurt in Miyagi and adjacent Iwate Prefecture, Kyodo news service reported.
There were no reports of damages or injuries at U.S. military bases in the Tokyo area, or at Misawa Air Base, however, base officials on Tuesday were still making assessments.
Apartment towers at Misawa are built on rollers to allow safe dissipation of energy released by earthquakes.
For Misawa residents, it was quite a ride.
“That was the first time I felt an earthquake with up and down and sideways motion too,” Amber Godfrey told her husband after he returned from the golf course.
Two dresser drawers fell to the floor in one of their bedrooms and the computer monitor in the living room was shaken to the edge of a desk, but its cable saved it from falling, she said.
In the apartment tower’s lobby, Staff Sgt. John Ammon, a 35th Civil Engineering Squadron firefighter, was resetting the tower’s elevators, which ground to a halt when the quake struck.
“They just park themselves at the nearest floor during earthquakes,” Ammon said. “Then we have to go around to six towers on main base and in the north area and get them running again.”
Sarah Rennells and her husband, Senior Airman Damian Rennells, arrived for duty at Misawa three weeks ago. They were in their room at the Misawa Inn when the quake roused Sarah from a nap.
“From my perspective, the earthquake was interesting,” she said, recalling she watched her husband as he stood in the doorway of their room.
“He was watching my reaction and laughing at me,” she said. “He was laughing too.”
Quakes measuring a lower 6 on the scale can damage wall tiles and windowpanes in some buildings, the JMA said.
The location of Monday’s epicenter was near an area that historically has been an active fault zone where undersea oceanic plates are sinking into under the continental plate.
The 1896 Meiji Sanriku earthquake with a magnitude of 8.5combined with a tsunami, causing more than 20,000 deaths. In 1933 another Sanriku earthquake, measuring magnitude 8.1, also triggered a tsunami that killed 3,000 people.
In 1994, a magnitude 7.7 quake struck the region, causing two deaths and 200 injuries in Hachinohe, 15 miles south of Misawa.
Town officials in Rokkasho, 25 miles north of Misawa and the site of an underground nuclear waste storage facility, said no damage was reported there. The quake measured an intensity of 4 in that region.
Jennifer Svan, Norio Muroi and Joe Giordono contributed to this report.