March 26, 2006

Magnitude 5.5 earthquake shakes southern Japan

TOKYO (Reuters) - An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.5 jolted southern Japan just before midday local time on Monday, the Japan Meteorological Agency reported, but there were no reports of injuries or damage.

No tsunami warning was issued after the quake hit at 0250 GMT. The focus was 50 km (31 miles) below the seabed off the eastern coast of Kyushu, Japan's southernmost main island.

Public broadcaster NHK said the quake was felt for about 15 seconds but there was no major disruption to train services. One expressway was partially closed for inspection, NHK added.

The quake was not felt in Tokyo, about 800 km (500 miles) to the north.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. said its nuclear power plants in the area were not affected by the quake. Kyushu Oil Co., the only refiner on the island, said refining and shipping operations at its 155,000-barrels-per-day Oita plant were not affected.

Sony Corp said it had had no report of damage or injuries to workers at its microchip plan in Oita Prefecture and there were no reports of damage from other firms with factories in the area.

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.