Tue, Nov 09, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Japan's Niigata Prefecture hit by strong aftershocks

AFP , TOKYO

A series of powerful tremors yesterday rattled a central Japanese region still reeling from last month's earthquake, slightly injuring eight people just as the last schools shut by the tragedy reopened.

Six tremors, with the strongest measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale and felt in Tokyo, struck within three hours starting at 11:15am in Niigata prefecture, the Meteorological Agency said.

The quakes were so powerful that some frightened children ran out of their classrooms on a day that was supposed to mark the return to normal at schools.

"Because of the aftershocks, some schools will let kids go home earlier," a local education official said.

The official said 35 schools reopened yesterday, the last of the prefecture's 832 public elementary and junior high schools to resume classes since the Oct. 23 earthquake which killed 39 people.

A tremor yesterday collapsed the walls of a building, hurting five children and a woman, but a spokesman for the Niigata fire department said their injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

Elsewhere a 75-year-old woman fell from her motorbike and a 68-year-old man was rescued after a fall, officials said.

"I was so shocked. But everything's okay as all my things were already broken by the previous quakes," a woman in her 20s told national broadcaster NHK.

The Oct. 23 initial tremor registered 6.8 on the Richter scale and was followed by hundreds of aftershocks.

"I am so sick of aftershocks," a woman in her 50s told the station. "I just wanted to go home."

Last month's earthquake was Japan's deadliest in nine years and also injured 2,600 people. The initial tremor derailed Japan's famed bullet train for the first time.

During the latest tremors the bullet train to Niigata, 200km northwest of Tokyo, was halted as a precaution but was expected to be running at normal speed by the end of yesterday, a railway spokesman said.

The Meteorological Agency warned residents to remain cautious for at least a month.

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