August 16, 2005

Major quake hits northern Japan, dozens injured

By Masayuki Kitano

TOKYO (Reuters) - A major earthquake with a magnitude of
7.2 jolted northern Japan on Tuesday, injuring at least 45
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.

Public broadcaster NHK said at least 22 of the 45 who were
injured were hurt when the ceiling at an indoor swimming pool
collapsed in Sendai, an industrial city of about one million.

"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 NHK.

Several aftershocks followed the initial quake, the largest
with a magnitude of 4.5, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

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 initial quake.

One expressway was closed for a short time and trains,
including high-speed "bullet trains," were halted.

Many rail lines remained out of service four hours after
the initial earthquake. Tokyo's major airports, however,
resumed operations after runways were briefly closed for

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

At one point nearly 17,000 households were without
electricity but power supplies were gradually recovering, said
Tohoku Electric, the main supplier to the region, which has
several high tech factories.


The focus of the tremor was 42 km below the sea bed off the
coast of Miyagi, the 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 was 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 an average year, there are less than 20 earthquakes in
the world with magnitudes of seven and above.

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.