A strong earthquake yesterday shook an area in northern Japan still recovering from last month's magnitude-6.8 quake, the Meteorological Agency said. The latest tremor sent residents dashing under tables, and led to at least one injury.
A magnitude 5.2 jolt, an aftershock to last month's quake, struck at 8:57am and was centered about 20km below the earth's surface in a rural part of Niigata prefecture about 250km north of Tokyo.
The agency warned of the possibility of more strong quakes over the next month.
The Oct. 23 earthquake and several large aftershocks in the days that followed killed 38 people and injured over 2,000. It was the deadliest quake to hit Japan since 1995, when a magnitude 7.2 quake killed 6,000 people in the western city of Kobe.
On Thursday, city officials said a 40-year-old man, who was cooking at a market when the shaking began, suffered burns to his hand by a hot pan. Officials received reports of burst water pipes and minor landslides of rain-loosened topsoil.
Television footage showed telephone poles and trees swaying and buildings shuddering when the temblor struck. Inside Ojiya city hall, near the site of the worst destruction from last month's quake, officials holding a meeting grabbed their chairs or ducked below tables while the building shook.
Officials said the shaking automatically triggered safety devices that shut down a nuclear reactor at a power plant and temporarily cut electricity to express "bullet" trains in the area.
Tokyo Electric Power Co spokesman Motoyasu Tamachi said the nuclear plant in Kashiwazaki city was being inspected but that the shutdown had no impact on the outside environment.
The aftershock hit as many public schools in the area reopened for the first time since last month's quake.
Over 46,000 people remain in emergency shelters in Niigata on Wednesday because their homes were completely or partially destroyed in the quake. Many were also too afraid to go home as aftershocks continue, creating the risk their homes will be further damaged.
Japan, which rests atop several tectonic plates, is among the world's most earthquake-prone countries.
A magnitude 5 earthquake can cause damage to homes if it occurs in a residential area.