August 20, 2005

Quake jolts northern Japan, no damage reported

TOKYO (Reuters) - An earthquake with a preliminary
magnitude of 5.0 jolted northern Japan on Sunday, but there
were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

No tsunami warning was issued after the quake, which
occurred at 11:29 a.m., the Meteorological Agency said.

The focus of the tremor was very shallow in Niigata
prefecture, the agency said.

A local official said the quake caused a brief scare.

"We were surprised initially because it shook pretty much,"
Hiroyuki Murayama, an official at Nagaoka city said on public
broadcaster NHK.

"It caused papers and tableware to become cluttered... But
so far there are no reports of any major damage," he added.

The superfast bullet train system was stopped briefly when
the quake caused electricity to be cut off, but resumed
operations minutes later, NHK said. Parts of an expressway were
also closed off after the tremor.

No irregularities were found at a nuclear plant at
Kashiwazaki in Niigata after the quake, NHK said.

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

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.

The latest quake struck less than a week after a major
earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 jolted another area of
northern Japan on Tuesday.

One media report said at least 67 people were injured in
that quake, which caused power outages and brought trains to a

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.