Massive Quake Leaves Deep Scars in Aftershock-Stricken Western Japan
Hundreds of aftershocks continued to rattle western Japan Saturday after a massive earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale injured more than 100 residents and damaged some 1,800 buildings.
"By 3:00 pm (0600 GMT), 321 aftershocks had jolted the area following yesterday's powerful quake," said a meteorological agency official.
The series of tremors included one of 4.7 intensity, and the agency warned an even more powerful one might come.
"Our assessment has not changed that the area may see a major aftershock measuring above 6.0 on the Richter scale," said the official, who declined to be named.
The massive tremor struck the Tottori prefecture 500 kilometers (313 miles) west of Tokyo Friday.
The epicenter lay 10 kilometers (six miles) below western Tottori, in a rural area close to the towns of Hino and Mizoguchi, the meteorological agency said.
It was stronger than one of 7.2 intensity, which killed more than 6,400 people in the western city of Kobe in January 1995.
But the damage this time was seen as minimal for a quake of its scale as the solid ground in the region and rural setting helped prevent a potential catastrophe of fire and building collapses.
Yet it left scars across the area.
The tremor has injured at least 106 people, with the some of the worst cases involving broken bones, the National Police Agency said.
A total of 1,786 buildings were damaged, including 20 houses which were completely flattened. It also knocked down seven bridges and triggered 47 landslides across western Japan, the police said.
In the fear of aftershocks, 2,719 residents were still sheltering in Tottori and two neighboring prefectures Shimane and Okayama, according to local governments.
In Tottori alone, 2,499 people evacuated their homes, said a Tottori government official.
Water supplies to 990 homes were still cut off, he said, but other utilities were returning to normal.
In Saikaku, one of the worst-hit towns and home to 8,200 residents, 89 residents were taking shelter in five town facilities.
"The houses of these people were either completely destroyed or heavily damaged and they have nowhere else to turn to," said Saikaku town official Keigo Watanabe.
"Aftershocks are still continuing quite frequently, and we are calling on the residents to stay alert for a tidal wave," he told AFP.
The armed ground force sent in 40 personnel and 20 vehicles to help supply enough water and food, said Self-Defense Force spokesman Akihiko Okamoto.
"We also have 2,300 personnel ready at nearby defense force stations in case of any emergency," he said.
Friday's quake cracked runways at the local Yonago airport located just 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from the epicenter.
"Cracks emerged on the runways, and we are now forced to close the airport," said airport official Mika Iwane. "We have no idea when we can re-open it."
The massive tremor flattened one Shinto shrine in nearby Sakaiminato, and caused havoc to public transportation as local train services were suspended in the region.
Two nuclear reactors at Shimane nuclear power plant, 60 kilometers (37.2 miles) from the epicenter, suffered no damage, their operator Chugoku Electric Power Corp. said.
In 1943, an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale killed 1,813 people and damaged 7,485 houses in the region -- TOKYO (AFP)
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