Strong quake hits central Japan, one killed, 110 hurt

A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7,1 jolted the coastal area of central Japan on Sunday, killing at least one person and injuring around 110, Japanese officials and media said.

At least nine houses collapsed, landslides were triggered and roads buckled when the quake struck at 9.42am. (12.42am GMT), public broadcaster NHK and Kyodo news agency said.

NHK said about 30 troops were to head for the site of the quake to give assistance.

“We want to ensure the safety of residents and do our best in rescue efforts,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.

The focus of the tremor was at a depth of 50km below the seabed off the Noto peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture, about 300km from Tokyo, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

A 52-year-old woman died in Wajima, on the western side of the peninsula, after being trapped under a stone lantern that toppled in her garden, officials said. Media said about 40 people were being treated in the local hospital in Wajima for injuries.

“Sprinklers went on, some walls collapsed.
It’s really bad,” a hotel employee in Wajima told NHK, which showed footage of a tiled roof collapsed into a street and broken glass.

In Nanao, a city with a population of around 60 000 on the peninsula, ambulance services were flooded with calls to help people who had suffered burns and injuries, Kyodo said.

TV footage showed collapsed wooden houses, tiles from roofs scattered on narrow streets and a man digging through piles of boards from a collapsed house in Wajima.

Anxious residents gathered outside their homes in Wajima, some holding children in their arms.

“Books fell off bookshelves and it was the worst shaking I have ever felt,” one local official told NHK.

Tsunami warning lifted

Some trains were halted, people were trapped in elevators and there were reports of power outages in some areas.

Flights were suspended between Tokyo and local airports in Ishikawa, Kyodo reported.

A tsunami warning for waves of up to 50cm issued for Ishikawa prefecture was later lifted. NHK said small tsunami had hit in some areas.

Electric power companies said there were no reports of irregularities at nuclear plants in the area.

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, was 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% of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude six 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. - Reuters 2007

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