Quake shakes Japan N-plants

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Quake shakes Japan N-plants By Stephen Lunn in Tokyo 07oct00

Government held emergency meeting to discuss assistance JAPAN'S strongest earthquake in five years, with its epicentre close to two nuclear power plants, rocked western regions of the country yesterday.

The quake, in the Shimane and Totori prefectures 150km north of Hiroshima, measured 7.3 on the Richter scale  a similar magnitude to the Kobe earthquake in 1995, which killed 6400 people. But despite landslides and severe property damage, no deaths had been reported last night.

Rural areas were among the hardest hit by the earthquake, which was powerful enough to knock people off their feet and shatter windows  and could be felt in parts of Tokyo, about 600km east of the worst-hit areas.

Three houses collapsed and fire department officers said many people had been injured and taken to hospital.

At least two construction workers were buried under landslides before being dug out.

Road, rail and telephone services were all severely curtailed and the Yonago airport runway developed a crack, halting all air traffic. Power was cut in many towns. Neither nuclear plant in the earthquake zone was in operation yesterday. One was shut for an upgrade and the other for annual repairs.

The operator of the plants, Chugoku Electric Power, said that neither reactor had reported any damage from the earthquake. Eight other nuclear plants in nearby prefectures had minor shocks.

Aftershocks were felt in some areas, but no tsunami warnings were issued. The tremor shook Japan's premier Suzuka racetrack, where the penultimate Formula One grand prix of the season takes place tomorrow.

Japan is one of the world's most earthquake-prone regions, sitting atop the juncture of three tectonic plates.

Thousands of quakes have jolted the Izu island chain, south of Tokyo, in recent months.

The Japanese Government last night held an emergency meeting to discuss assistance for the thousands affected by the earthquake.

The Defence Agency, Japan's military, said it had sent a reconnaissance plane and a helicopter to the area and F-15 fighter planes were on standby.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), October 07, 2000

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