TOKYO, July 16 (Xinhua) -- Two women were killed, over 200 people were
injured in an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8, which rocked Niigata
prefecture of central western Japan and surrounding areas on Monday morning,
local reports said.
According to Kyodo News, two women died in Kashiwazaki in Niigata after
being taken to a local hospital due to the 10:13 a.m.(0113 GMT) quake. Of over
200 people injured in Niigata and Naganoprefectures, more than 100 were taken to
hospital in Kashiwazaki.
The weather service issued a tsunami warning immediately after the quake
and relieved it about an hour later. Around a dozen aftershocks were registered
from 10:34 a.m. (0134 GMT) to 13:53 a.m. (0453 GMT) in Niigata, with magnitudes
around 3 on the Richter scale, according to Japan Meteorological Agency.
The epicenter of the quake was around 17 kilometers below seabed in waters
off Niigata prefecture, the agency said. The agency, which revised the major
quake from 6.6 to 6.8 magnitude later at noon, also said that a strong
aftershock may occur within the week.
Over 20 houses collapsed in Niigata prefecture, local reports said. An
electric transformer caught fire at the No. 3 reactor of Tokyo Electric Power
Co.'s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant. The fire was brought under control
around noon, local reports said. Other three reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa
nuclear plant automatically shut down. No radioactive leakage has been detected
The quake also caused power failures in over 21,700 houses in Niigata as of
11:00 a.m. (0200 GMT).
East Japan Railway Co. said it halted bullet train services on the Tohoku,
Joetsu and Nagano Shinkansen lines as well as other train services. The Tohoku
and Nagano Shinkansen lines later resumed operations.
Several parts of highway in Niigata were also closed after the quake.
Niigata airport shut down its runways immediately after the quake to check for
damage, airport officials said.
The government has set up an emergency management center to handle the
quake. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been in Kyushu of southern Japan, is
on his way back to Tokyo due to the quake, local reports said.
The quake measured upper 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in
Kashiwazaki and Kariwa in Niigata and Iizuna in Nagano, lower 6 in Joetsu and
Nagaoka in Niigata, and upper 5 in Iiyama in Nagano. The earthquake also
affected nearby prefectures including Ishikawa, Yamagata, Tochigi, Saitama,
Fukushima and others.
In October 2004, a major earthquake hit Niigata prefecture, killing 67
people and injuring over 4,800.