A powerful earthquake has hit northern Japan. But initial assessments suggest that damage and injuries might have been limited.
An earthquake so powerful that it caused computers to tumble off shelves and roads to buckle hit northern Japan during the Monday evening rush hour.
Seismologists say the quake measured 7.0 on the Richter scale - the most powerful temblor to hit Japan since March 2001. Some people said the shaking continued for more than a minute and many said it was the most powerful quake they had ever felt in the earthquake-prone region.
Some fires were reported in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, several hundred kilometers north of Tokyo. In the city of Sendai, in Miyagi prefecture, shoppers on the street broke into a run as the shaking intensified.
In Tokyo, workers in high-rise buildings scurried to the stairways to escape. High-speed train and airline services were suspended as a precaution in a number of cities.
The country appears to have been spared a catastrophe, probably because the quake originated 60 kilometers under the Pacific Ocean, off the Japanese coast.