Strong earthquake strikes Japan, killing at least 1

Sunday, March 25, 2007

TOKYO -- A strong earthquake struck Japan today, killing at least one person, violently shaking buildings and triggering two very small tsunamis that hit the coast, officials and media reports said.

The quake hit shortly before 10 a.m. Sunday morning (local time) off the north coast of Ishikawa prefecture (state), Japan's Meteorological Agency said. It had a preliminary magnitude of 7.1. A small tsunami of 6 inches hit shore around 10:18 a.m., public broadcaster NHK said. A second tsunami of similar size hit minutes later down the coast.

Television footage from the quake zone showed buildings shaking violently for about 30 seconds.

NHK reported one woman died and 40 were injured.

"We felt violent shakings," said Wataru Matsumoto, deputy mayor of the town of Anamizu near epicenter, told NHK. He said his colleagues told him everything inside their houses had smashed to the ground.

Immediately after the quake struck, authorities issued a tsunami warning for the northwestern Sea of Japan coast and broadcasters urged people near the sea to seek higher ground.

The Meteorological Agency said seismically triggered waves of up to 25 inches were possible. The tsunami warning was later lifted.

Calls to police and local officials in the region were not immediately answered.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the earthquake was 225 miles northwest of Tokyo. The USGS gave a preliminary magnitude of 7.3.

Train services in the Ishikawa and nearby Toyama prefectures were suspended and all Nippon Airways flights between Ishikawa and Tokyo were postponed, Kyodo News agency said.

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

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe established an emergency response center at his office to assess what kind of emergency assistance might be needed, Deputy Cabinet Secretary Hiroshi Suzuki said.

Japan sits atop four tectonic plates and is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries.

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