Fire at Nuclear Plant as Quake Jolts Japan
Reuters / Times Colonist (Canada) 16jul2007
TOKYO — A strong earthquake jolted northwestern Japan today, injuring dozens of people, destroying some houses and causing a fire at a nuclear power plant, Japanese media and officials said.
"I was on the street, and there was strong sideways shaking. I couldn't remain standing. One wall has collapsed," gasoline station worker Hiroki Takahashi told NHK in Kashiwazaki City, near the focus of the quake, where TV broadcasters said at least 12 people where trapped under collapsed houses.
TV pictures showed black smoke billowing from a electrical transformer building at Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata prefecture, near the epicentre 250 kilometres northwest of Tokyo.
Buildings swayed in Tokyo, some trains were stopped, and nuclear power reactors in the Niigata area were shut down for checks, but there was no radiation leakage reported.
The quake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 was centred around 60 kilometres southwest of Niigata. The focus of the quake was 10 kilometres below the Earth's surface, Japan's Meteorological Agency said.
"There were ambulances and fire trucks running so there seems to be injuries," Masae Yanai told public broadcaster NHK from Kashiwazaki.
Tsunami warning sirens sounded along affected stretches of the Sea of Japan, with a surge of up to about 50 centimetres predicted, but the warning was later withdrawn.
Today is a holiday in Japan.
Japan Earthquake Kills Seven,
ISSEI KATO / Reuters 16jul2007
KASHIWAZAKI, Japan (Reuters) - A strong earthquake flattened houses in northwestern Japan on Monday, killing at least seven people, and sparking a small radiation leak and fire at the world's biggest nuclear power plant.
More than 800 people were injured by the quake in Niigata prefecture, and buildings swayed as far away as Tokyo. Thousands were evacuated from their homes.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said 1.5 litres of water containing radioactive materials had leaked from the No. 6 unit at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant -- the world's largest.
The company said in a statement that the contaminated water had been released into the ocean and had had no effect on the environment. TEPCO said earlier there were no radiation leaks at the plant, where reactors automatically shut down for checks.
Two women in their 80s died when their houses collapsed during the magnitude 6.8 tremor. A police spokesman confirmed the deaths of seven elderly people, and a 77-year-old man was reported missing after going for a walk before the quake hit at 10:13 a.m. (0113 GMT).
"First there was a sharp vertical jolt and then it shook sideways for a long time and I couldn't stand up. Tall shelves fell over and things flew around," said Harumi Mikami, 55, a teacher who was at her school in Kashiwazaki City, near the focus of the quake in Niigata prefecture about 250 km (155 miles) northwest of Tokyo.
The quake halted gas service to about 35,000 homes and disrupted the water supply to all of Kashiwazaki, a city with a population of around 95,000 that was hardest hit by the quake, media and officials said.
About 25,000 homes in Niigata prefecture were without electricity, a local official said.
Houses, many wooden with traditional heavy tile roofs, were flattened, a temple roof caved in and roads cracked in the quake, which was centered in the same northwestern area as a tremor three years ago that killed some 65 people.
"My house is half destroyed and the pillars are damaged," Mikami said. "My biggest worry is where I will live now."
TV pictures showed an 84-year-old woman, apparently alive, being rescued from the wreckage of her collapsed house some five hours after the quake.
About 7,800 people had fled their homes to nearly 100 evacuation centers as scores of aftershocks of up to magnitude 5.6 rattled the area, state broadcaster NHK said.
Troops and extra emergency teams were being sent to help with rescue and relief efforts, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cut short campaigning for parliamentary elections to inspect the area.
NUCLEAR PLANT FIRE
A fire in an electrical transformer at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant -- the world's largest -- was quickly extinguished but it was unclear when TEPCO could restart three power units there, said Yoshinobu Kamijima, a company spokesman.
Abe's government set up an emergency office to deal with the quake, which officials said had damaged about 500 buildings.
"People tell me they want to get back to their usual lives as soon as possible," Abe said after arriving by helicopter in Kashiwazaki. "We'll make every effort towards rescue and also to restore services such as gas and electricity."
Japan is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, with a tremor occurring at least every five minutes.
The quake was centered around 60 km (37 miles) southwest of Niigata. Monday was a holiday in Japan and financial markets were closed.
WATER CUT, TRAINS HALTED
Bullet trains stopped services in northern Japan after the quake but resumed about 11 hours after the quake. A local train toppled from the rails, but media said no one was injured.
Landslides closed several local roads, and rain was forecast in the area for the next two days, raising worries about more slippage.
Soldiers brought tanks of water to Kashiwazaki and were cooking rice for evacuees. "My house was totally messed up and the only thing I could think of was to escape and to take my kids to safety," said Itsuko Igarashi, a housewife, at an evacuation centre in an elementary school gymnasium in Kashiwazaki.
"It was shaking and scary," said her daughter, Sae, aged 6.
Tsunami warning sirens sounded along affected stretches of the Sea of Japan, but the alert was later withdrawn.
Niigata was hit in October 2004 by a quake with a matching magnitude of 6.8 that killed 65 people and injured more than 3,000.
That was the deadliest quake in Japan since a magnitude 7.3 tremor hit Kobe city in 1995, killing more than 6,400.
Sanyo Electric Co. spokesman Akihiko Oiwa said operations had been halted at a semiconductor factory in Niigata, one of the company's largest, but there had been no reports of damage.
Additional reporting by Elaine Lies, George Nishiyama, Chisa Fujioka, Teruaki Ueno and Linda Sieg
Powerful Earthquake Jolts Niigata, Nagano and
Other Areas, Killing 3 and Injuring 150
Mainichi (Japan) 16jul2007
A powerful earthquake jolted Niigata and Nagano prefectures as well as other areas in central and eastern Honshu Monday morning, killing at least three and leaving about 150 others dead, government officials said.
Hundreds of houses collapsed following the quake and many are believed to still be trapped in the ruins.
The temblor that struck at 10:13 a.m. registered upper 6 on the 7-point Japanese intensity scale in the Chuetsu region of central Niigata Prefecture and northern Nagano Prefecture, and lower 6 in Joetsu, Nagano Prefecture, the Meteorological Agency said.
The earthquake also measured upper 5 in the Kaetsu region of Niigata Prefecture and lower 5 in the Noto district of Ishikawa Prefecture.
The focus of the earthquake, which is estimated at 6.8 on the open-ended Richter scale, was located about 17 kilometers below the seabed off Niigata Prefecture.
The agency issued a tsunami warning in wide areas of Niigata Prefecture, including Sado Island. A minor tsunami was observed in the Washizaki district of Sado at 10:39 a.m., but the warning was subsequently lifted.
Three elderly women died in Kashiwazaki. About 150 others were transported to hospitals, and some of them are in critical condition, local government officials said.
Electric power supply has been cut off to approximately 22,000 households in Niigata, Nagaoka and Kashiwazaki and other areas, according to Tohoku Electric Power Co. The Kashiwazaki Municipal Government's waterworks and gas bureau has also suspended its gas services to about 34,000 households in the city.
The earthquake occurred when a fault slipped after being pressed from both northwest and southeast directions, according to agency officials. They added that the type of temblor is similar to that of the October 2004 earthquake, which hit the Chuetsu district and registered 6.8 on the Richter scale.
Aftershock strikes Niigata Pref.
Mainichi (Japan) 16jul2007
Another strong tremor hit Niigata Prefecture on Monday afternoon, believed to be an aftershock from the earthquake that struck earlier that day, the Meteorological Agency said.
The afternoon tremor hit at about 3:37 p.m., and registered lower 6 on the 7-point Japanese intensity scale, and approximately 5.6 on the open-ended Richter scale.
The focus of the quake was about 10 kilometers below the surface of central Niigata Prefecture, agency officials said.
The quake registered lower 6 on the Japanese scale in central Niigata Prefecture, lower 5 in northern Niigata Prefecture, and 4 in southern Niigata Prefecture, northern Gunma Prefecture and northern Nagano Prefecture.