Strong earthquake hits southern Japan; 58 injured

A strong earthquake struck southern Japan on Wednesday, injuring at least 58 people, shattering windows and knocking down houses already damaged by a powerful tremor that hit the same area last month. There was no threat of tsunami.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 5.8, hit at 6:11 a.m. (2011 GMT Tuesday) and was centered 14 kilometers (9 miles) below the seabed in the ocean just west of Fukuoka city on Kyushu island, the Central Meteorological Agency reported.

The 58 people hurt - two of them seriously - suffered broken bones and other injuries, but none of them were life-threatening, said Masahiko Esaki, a spokesman for Fukuoka Prefecture (state). Most of the injuries were from objects falling from shelves or from stepping onto broken glass.

The quake damaged some 279 buildings and triggered several landslides in the damage zone, including on the island of Genkai, where several homes already damaged in a powerful March 20 quake were knocked down in Wednesday's temblor.

A total of 211 people were evacuated from their homes after the quake, Esaki said.

Officials were still assessing the extent of the damage from the temblor, which was followed by several weaker jolts, said Fukuoka prefectural (state) spokesman Yoshihiro Nakamura. The quake shook large areas of Kyushu, and was most strongly felt in Fukuoka city, 900 kilometers (560) southwest of Tokyo.

"My house shook rather violently sideways, although nothing was broken or damaged," said Nakamura.

Several windows were shattered at a terminal building at Fukuoka Airport, and a wall was cracked at a factory in the town of Chikushi, police said.

Public broadcaster NHK TV showed beer bottles, cans, cookie boxes and magazines scattered on the floors of convenience stores in Fukuoka city. The force of the quake also jarred hundreds of videos from their shelves in a rental shop.

Major highways were closed and railway services were temporarily halted, and the runway at Fukuoka Airport was closed to check for damage, NHK said. The airport later reopened, it said.

The agency said Wednesday's tremor was considered an aftershock of the March 20 quake, which killed one person and injured hundreds.


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