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Japan Earthquake Kills One, Injures 160
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An earthquake, measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale, ripped through the Hokuriku region of Japan on Sunday, killing one person and injuring more than 160, demolishing houses, buckling roads, triggering landslides and cutting off water supplies to thousands of homes.

The 9:42 AM quake, centered on the prefectures of Ishikawa, Toyama and Niigata, destroyed some 40 houses and damaged another 200, Kyodo News said.

Reports from the Japan Meteorological Agency placed its epicenter at around 30 kilometers southwest of Wajima City, Ishikawa, in the sea off Noto Peninsula and about 11 km underground.

The only casualty reported so far was a 52-year-old woman in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, who was killed in her garden when a stone lantern collapsed on top of her, local police was quoted as saying.

The agency further reported that a series of over 130 aftershocks had been registered by Sunday night, most of them lower than a magnitude of 4.

The strongest was placed at a magnitude of 5.3, jolting Wajima City at 6:11 PM. According to the agency, aftershocks could be scattered over the next week, reaching 5 on the Japanese seismic scale of 7, with the real earthquake registering at the upper 6 level. Reports are due from the weather service predicting the likely scale of aftershocks. 

The injured mainly hailed from the cities of Wajima and Nanao in Ishikawa prefecture. Wajima saw around 1,800 people evacuated to shelters whilst power failures temporarily engulfed 160,000 households in Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures, with water supplies cut to a further 9,500 households in Wajima and Noto.

Noto airport was shut down after its runway and taxiing slip road were cracked by the earthquake, the longest being nearly 100 meters long, Kyodo revealed. All Nippon Airways Co. announced the suspension of all flights between Tokyo's Haneda and Ishikawa's Noto airports.

West Japan Railway Co. similarly shut down rail services in Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures despite registering no train derailments or injured passengers. Operations at nuclear power plants in Niigata and Fukui prefectures were not affected, Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Kansai Electric Power Co. both stated.

Some 400 members of police from nearby prefectures have gathered to assist the stricken area, while close to 30 troops from the Ground Self-Defense Force have arrived for investigation and information gathering. Self-Defense Forces air units are also flying surveillance missions, the report stated.

(Xinhua News Agency March 26, 2007)

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