Sun, Jun 15, 2008 - Page 1 News List

7.2 quake hits Japan, killing six and injuring 144

AP , KURIHARA, JAPAN

A magnitude 7.2 earthquake ripped across the mountains and rice fields of northern Japan yesterday, killing at least six people as it sheared off hillsides, jolted buildings and shook nuclear power plants. At least eight people were missing.

Military helicopters swarmed the quake zone 400km north of Tokyo, ferrying in supplies and flying the injured to hospitals. Officials said at least 144 people were injured and landslides trapped 100 bathers at a hot spring resort.

At a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, the jolt splashed 20 liters of radioactive water from two pools storing spent fuel, operators said. Trade and Industry Ministry official Yoshinori Moriyama said there was no leakage, however, outside the plant.

There have been no reports of casualties involving Taiwanese, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The force of the quake, which was followed by some 153 aftershocks, buckled many roads, including one highway that was severed when a stretch of land collapsed, creating a cliff.

Electricity was cut to about 29,000 households, though service was mostly restored by last night.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said the government was mobilizing troops, police and “everybody we possibly can” to find the missing and rescue and treat the injured.

The six dead included a man who ran out of a building in fear and was hit by a passing truck, four people buried by landslides and a construction worker hit by a falling rock at a dam, officials said.

The 8:43am quake was centered in Iwate Prefecture and was located about 8km underground. It was felt as far away as Tokyo.

The quake also knocked down equipment and car parts at the Iwate factory of Kanoto Auto Works, a Toyota subsidiary that assembles popular Corollas and other models, company spokeswoman Seiko Watanabe said. The company has not decided whether to resume production tomorrow.

Rescuers said a problem was the fractured road system, which stopped them reaching isolated hamlets in the damage zone.

“We’re getting growing reports of damage, but we can’t even get out there to assess the situation with roads closed off because of landslides,” said Norio Sato, a city official in Kurihara.

A landslide buried 15 construction workers in the city. Twelve managed to dig themselves out, but two were killed and one remained missing. Seven people at Komanoyu hot springs were also missing after a separate landslide hit the resort.

The Defense Ministry dispatched a dozen helicopters and patrol aircraft and the disaster agency mobilized about 760 rescue workers.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA

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