August 16, 2005

Major quake hits northern Japan, some injuries

TOKYO (Reuters) - A major earthquake with a magnitude of
7.2 jolted northern Japan on Tuesday, injuring at least 27
people, causing power outages and snarling transportation.

Buildings also swayed in Tokyo, about 300 km (190 miles) to
the south, when the tremor struck at 11:46 a.m. (0246 GMT) but
there were no reports of damage or injuries in the capital.

Injury reports were still being compiled, but Kyodo news
agency said 27 people had been injured in the mainly
agricultural region, which also has several big cities and
high-tech factories.

One person was seriously hurt and 13 others slightly
injured when part of the ceiling at an indoor swimming pool
collapsed, said an official in Sendai, a city with a population
of about one million. Early reports had said up to 80 people
had been hurt.

"There was a tremendous boom... People were screaming and
headed toward the exit. It shook a lot... A lot of people were
crying," a young woman who was at the pool told public
broadcaster NHK.

Japan Meteorological Agency official Yasuo Sekita said
strong aftershocks could still jolt the area.

"It is on the border of plates and earthquakes often
occur," he told a news conference.

The agency initially rated the quake at magnitude 6.8.

One expressway was closed and trains -- including highspeed
"bullet trains" -- were halted, but there were no reports of
derailments. Some railways soon resumed service.

Tokyo's major airports resumed operations after runways
were briefly closed for checks.

One woman was rescued after being trapped when her wooden
house collapsed in Saitama, just west of Tokyo.

There was also a report of a landslide but it was not clear
if anyone had been hurt.

Nearly 17,000 households were without electricity, Tohoku
Electric said.

"Things were falling off the shelf, but otherwise it seems
business as usual for the most part," said Takeshi Saito, a
flight instructor in Sendai.

A tsunami measuring about 10 cm (4 inches) high hit the
coast of Miyagi prefecture but a tsunami warning was lifted
about 90 minutes after the quake.


The focus of the tremor was 20 km below the sea bed off the
coast of Miyagi, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

Tohoku Electric said all three nuclear power generators at
its Onagawa plant stopped automatically after the quake and
Nippon Oil said it suspended operations at its local refinery.

Sony Corp., which has factories in Miyagi making magnetic
tapes and semiconductor lasers, said there was no impact from
the earthquake on its facilities and no staff were injured.

Fuji Photo Film Co. said production at its digital camera
factory in Miyagi had been temporarily halted for checks, but
it reported no damage to equipment.

The magnitude of the earthquake was measured according to a
technique similar to the Richter scale, but adjusted for
Japan's geological characteristics.

The same area was hit by a quake in May 2003, injuring more
than 100 people.

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world's most
seismically active areas. The country accounts for about 20
percent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

In October 2004, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8
struck the Niigata region in northern Japan, killing 40 people
and injuring more than 3,000.

That was the deadliest quake since a magnitude 7.3 tremor
hit the city of Kobe in 1995, killing more than 6,400.