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6.2-magnitude quake hits Fukushima, as nuclear chief visits

A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Fukushima, Japan, on Monday, as nuclear watchdog chief Yukiya Amano visited the tsunami-hit nuclear plant and lawmakers passed a key disaster-relief funding package.

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Former residents of the town of Okuma, near the stricken Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, pray for victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami during a memorial service at Okuma in Fukushima prefecture on July 24, 2011. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Japan's northeastern Fukushima Prefecture early Monday, prompting a storm surge warning by the Japan Meteorological Agency, on the same day as the head of the nuclear watchdog visited Japan's tsunami-hit nuclear plant.

Meanwhile, Japan's parliament on Monday approved 2 trillion yen ($25 billion) in extra funding to help the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which according to Reuters paves "the way for bigger reconstruction spending likely to involve new borrowing and tax hikes."

The epicenter of Monday's quake, which occurred at 03:51 a.m. local time, was about 25 miles under the sea off Fukushima, according to the meteorological agency.

Tremors were felt in Tokyo, about 150 miles away from the prefecture, although there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage to properties, and no tsunami warning was issued.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano, meanwhile, said the operators of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant were steadily making progress to contain damage from the crisis following the March 11 quake.

In his first visit to the plant since the crisis, Amano said he was optimistic that workers at the plant could bring the radiation leaking reactors under control as expected under Japan's "Road Map," the AP reports.

Japanese officials said last week the reactors have somewhat stabilized and they plan to bring them to a cold shutdown within six month as planned.

On the political front, Prime Minister Naoto Kan — roundly criticized over his handling of the nuclear crisis — had cited the passage of the extra funding as a key condition for keeping a promise to resign, although he has kept the timing of his departure vague.

Last month, the embattled leader narrowly escaped a no-confidence motion by promising to turn over power to "the next generation" of lawmakers after the approval of three key bills, including the disaster-relief budget.

According to Reuters, investors, meanwhile, "are counting on huge reconstruction spending to help the world's third-largest economy pull out of a post-disaster slump and resume moderate growth later this year and early in 2012."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/japan/110725/japan-earthquake-fukushima-tokyo-nuclear-Yukiya-Amano