Bullet train services in Japan were suspended after the country's meteorological agency issued an alert for an upcoming earthquake. However, as the people braced for higher magnitude quake, what came off was a measly one.
Pandemonium almost broke loose as loud alarms rang from cellphones and TVs at 4:56 pm. local time on Thursday, warning residents of a magnitude-7.8 quake.
Residents with mobile phones received the following message, "Receiving Earthquake Warning. Be cautious for violent shaking."
Moments later, a second alert, "Emergency Earthquake Report: Earthquake struck Nara Prefecture. Please prepare for strong shaking."
When it struck, it only gave off a magnitude-2.3 earthquake which struck at the Wakayama prefecture in western Japan.
"We apologize for causing problems to so many people," Toshihiko Hashida, an official from the Japan Meteorological Agency, said in a televised briefing, blaming electronic noise as the reason for triggering the erroneous false alarm.
"But we want to ask everyone to make the effort to secure their safety when an alert is issued, because it is a fact that there is some kind of temblor when the alarm is sent."
Japan has since tried to improve its warning systems following the March 2011 magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people. Apart from improving its warning systems, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's country is likewise groping for immediate answers how to thwart a potential crisis from the toxic water the crippled Fukushima nuclear facility has been found leaking into the Pacific ocean since the disaster hit two and a half years ago.
About 38 JR West lines with 228 trains heeded the warning, thus getting delayed in the process. Other train services including the Central Japan Railway Co. likewise suspended operations, but immediately resumed minutes later.