(photo credit: AP [file])
Japan's Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami warning after an earthquake with preliminary magnitude 8.1 hit the Kuril Islands north of Japan.
The quake struck about 390 kilometers east of the Etorofu islands north of Japan at 1115 GMT, according to the agency.
A tsunami of about two meters (6.5 feet) or more could hit the Pacific coast of Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido and main island of Honshu after 1210 GMT, the agency said.
The agency told residents along Japan's Pacific coast to flee to higher ground.
The US Geological Survey reported on its Web site a 7.8 magnitude quake centered 443 kilometers (275 miles) east-northeast of the Kuril Islands at a depth of 27.7 kilometers (17.2 miles).
Temblors of magnitude seven are generally classified as major earthquakes, capable of widespread, heavy damage.
A magnitude 9.1-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Indonesia on Dec. 26, 2004 caused a tsunami that killed at least 213,000 people in 11 countries.
In Moscow, a Russian official confirmed that a powerful earthquake had struck the Kuril Islands area but said there was no immediate word of damage or casualties.