Strong earthquake strikes Japan

A strong earthquake rocked Japan on Sunday, killing at least one person and injuring 150 others. The quake caused serious damage to many buildings and triggered a small tsunami along the coast, officials and media reports said.

The magnitude-6.9 quake struck at 9:42 a.m. (0042 GMT) off the north coast of Ishikawa prefecture (state), Japan's Meteorological Agency said. The agency issued a tsunami warning urging people near the sea to move to higher land.

A small tsunami measuring 10 centimeters (6 inches) hit the shore 36 minutes later, the agency said. The warning was lifted after about an hour.

The quake toppled buildings, triggered landslides, cut power, interfered with phone service, broke water mains and snarled public transportation. At least one person was killed and 150 others were hurt along the country's Sea of Japan coast, media reports said.

Fear of aftershocks and more landslides caused by the loosening of soil waterlogged by overnight rains continued to plague the quake zone.

Television footage of the quake showed buildings shaking violently for about 30 seconds. Other shots showed collapsed buildings and shops with shattered windows, streets cluttered with roof tiles and roads with cracked pavement.

In Ishikawa, at least 24 people were injured, six severely, according to prefectural official Kosaku Ueno. In neighboring Toyama, at least two people were injured, fire official Nobuyuki Shima said.

Many of the injured people suffered burns or were hurt by falling objects and broken glass, media reports said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki confirmed the death of a 52-year-old woman. Public broadcaster NHK said she was crushed by a falling stone lantern.

"We are doing our best to rescue the victims," he said. "We are also doing our best to assess the extent of the damage."

Kyodo News agency reported about 30 soldiers had arrived to help with disaster relief, and military aircraft were examining the damage.

"We felt violent shaking. My colleagues say the insides of their houses are a mess, with everything smashed on the floor," Wataru Matsumoto, deputy mayor of the town of Anamizu near the epicenter, told NHK.

Takeshi Hachimine, seismology and tsunami section chief at the Meteorological Agency, said the affected area was not considered earthquake-prone. The last major quake to cause casualties there was in 1933, when three people died.

He warned of likely aftershocks.

"After the powerful earthquake, aftershocks will continue," Hachimine said. "All residents, especially those who are near the hardest-hit areas, are advised to use extra caution. Aftershocks could further damage what's already fragile."

Train service in Ishikawa and nearby Toyama prefecture was suspended and All Nippon Airways flights between Ishikawa and Tokyo were delayed, Kyodo said.

Nuclear power plants owned by Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric Power Co. were operating normally in Niigata and Fukui prefectures, Kyodo said.

Hokuriku Electric Power Co. said at least 340 households in the area were without electrical power.

Japan sits atop four tectonic plates and is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries. The last major quake to hit the capital, Tokyo, killed some 142,000 people in 1923, and experts say the capital has a 90 percent chance of suffering a major quake in the next 50 years, the AP said.

In October 2004, a magnitude-6.8 earthquake hit northern Japan, killing 40 people and damaging more than 6,000 homes. It was the deadliest to hit Japan since 1995, when a magnitude-7.2 quake killed 6,433 people in the western city of Kobe.

Powerful quakes in 1703, 1782, 1812 and 1855 also caused vast damage in the capital.

Japan's Meteorological Agency assigned Sunday's quake a preliminary magnitude of 7.1, but later revised that to 6.9.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the epicenter of Sunday's quake was 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Tokyo. The USGS measured its magnitude at 6.7.

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