Quake in central Japan kills one and hurts over 160
NOTO PENINSULA, Japan |
NOTO PENINSULA, Japan (Reuters) - A strong earthquake killed one person and injured at least 160 in central Japan on Sunday, demolishing houses, buckling roads, triggering landslides and cutting off water supplies to thousands of homes.
More than 1,300 people evacuated to shelters after 44 houses collapsed and some 200 others, mostly wooden with heavy tile roofs, were seriously damaged by the 6.9 magnitude earthquake, which struck at 9:42 a.m. (0042 GMT), officials and media said.
The focus of the quake -- which was also felt in Tokyo -- was 11 km (7 miles) below the seabed off the Noto peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture, about 300 km (190 miles) west of Tokyo.
"It was frightening so I dashed outside. It shook and shook," said Shina Yamashita, 88, one of about 200 mostly elderly people taking shelter in a civic centre in the rural city of Wajima, Monzen district, one of the hardest hit areas.
The mountainous peninsula is known for its hot spring resorts.
More than 100 aftershocks jolted the area, including one with a magnitude of 5.3 more than eight hours after the first quake, which was the biggest in the area since records began in 1926. Officials warned more aftershocks could follow.
A 52-year-old woman died in Wajima, a resort and fishing town on the western side of the peninsula, after being trapped under a stone lantern that toppled in her garden.
In Nanao, a resort and fishing city with a population of around 60,000, ambulance services were flooded with calls to help people who had suffered burns and injuries.
"I looked outside and electricity poles were shaking," said Hiroshi Tanaka, a fire department official. "Residents called in but they were calm and there weren't many serious injuries."
About 40 people were treated for mostly minor injuries in Wajima. Most were hurt from falls when the tremor struck or by being hit by falling objects, Kyodo news agency said.
Anxious residents gathered outside their homes in the town of 34,000 people, some holding children in their arms.
Around 1,200 Wajima residents whose homes were damaged were evacuated to schools and community centres and were receiving food and blankets, a city official said.
TSUNAMI WARNING LIFTED
Kyodo later said around 1,800 had been evacuated in Wajima but the number of injured had been lowered to 162, from 170.
About 30 troops arrived in the area to help assess the damage and some 400 police from neighbouring prefectures headed for the site to provide assistance, media reported.
The Japan Meteorological Agency originally estimated the magnitude at 7.1 but later revised it to 6.9.
Some trains were halted and people were trapped in elevators. Power outages hit nearly 500 homes in the area and 9,000 had their water supplies cut, public broadcaster NHK said.
"Furniture toppled over with a crash and dishes scattered and broke," said Yuko Ikawa, 38, who fled to the Monzen evacuation centre with her family.
"The biggest worry is there is no tap water," she added.
Officials closed an airport on the peninsula because of cracks on the runway and halted traffic on damaged expressways. High-speed bullet trains resumed service after being checked.
Telephone services were snarled, as many tried to confirm that friends and family were safe. Power companies said there were no reports of irregularities at nuclear plants in the area.
A tsunami warning issued for Ishikawa prefecture was later lifted after small tsunamis hit in some areas.
Separately, two strong earthquakes struck on Sunday near Vanuatu in the South Pacific, Australia's geological agency reported, but there were no immediate reports of damage.
The first, measured at magnitude 7.3, occurred two minutes before the quake in central Japan. Vanuatu's second quake, at magnitude 7.1, came about half an hour later.
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 65 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.
(Additional reporting by Chisa Fujioka, Elaine Lies, Teruaki Ueno and Linda Sieg)
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