A powerful earthquake hit Japan early Sunday, leaving one person dead and 40 injured and spawning two small tsunamis, officials said.

Two other earthquakes were also reported in the South Pacific.

The Japanese quake,with a preliminary magnitude of 7.1,struck the north of coast of Ishikawa prefecture just before 10 a.m., according to Japan's Meteorological Agency. Buildings shook violently for about half a minute.

The first tsunami hit the northern coast of Japan at about 10:18 a.m. The second hit minutes later. Both were quite small, about 15 centimetres in height.

NHK, Japan's public broadcaster, said the quake killed one woman and injured 40 people. NHK said the woman, 52, was crushedwhen a stone lantern fell.

Japanese authorities issued a tsunami warning for the country's Sea of Japan coast immediately after the quake hit. Broadcasters told people along the coast to seek shelter on higher ground.

The meteorological agency had warned that the quake could result in a tsunami of 64 centimetres, which proved inaccurate.It later lifted the warning.

According to the U.S. Geological Service, the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.3 and it pinpointed its epicentre as 362 kilometres northwest of Tokyo.

Kyodo News agency reported that authorities suspended train services in the Ishikawa and neighbouring Toyama prefectures, and flights of All Nippon Airways between Ishikawa and Tokyo were postponed.

Officials checked nuclear power plants operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric Power Co. in areas affected by the quake, but they were said to be operating normally.

Elsewhere on Sunday, two strong earthquakes struck the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu and a tsunami warning was issued for some of its southern islands, officials said, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage in the capital, Port Vila

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the first quake had a magnitude of 7.2, while the second had a magnitude of 6.0.

Australia's Emergency Management Officesaid the strongquakes could generate a tsunami. Police were still checking on injuries and damage.

With files from the Associated Press