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Web Extra Monday, October 25, 2004

Deadly quakes shake Japan

At 5:56 p.m. on Saturday, a shallow magnitude-6.6 earthquake struck a rural region about 195 kilometers northwest of Tokyo, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The large temblor was followed by hundreds of aftershocks Saturday night and Sunday, with at least three that were greater than magnitude 6.0. At least 25 people have been killed, with more than 2,000 injured and many still unaccounted for.

Japan's prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, immediately mobilized forces to begin rescue operations, which have included airlifting people out of remote villages and sifting through wreckage, as reported by Reuters. Many roads in the mountainous region remain impassible due to damage or landslides, hindering rescue efforts. At least 90 landslides have occurred, according to USGS.

On Saturday evening, a magnitude-6.6 earthquake struck a rural region northwest of Tokyo, leaving 25 dead and more than 2,700 injured. A series of aftershocks continued throughout Sunday. Image courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.

The series of quakes struck just days after a deadly typhoon left 80 people dead and others still missing in the region. The 10 typhoons and accompanying heavy rains that hit Japan this year left the hillsides overly saturated and thus prone to landslides. Officials say more landslides are likely as well.

More than 1,000 buildings and 2,800 homes in the region were damaged or destroyed by the series of quakes, Reuters reports, and 100,000 people are still without electricity or telephone service. The quakes also burst sewage and water mains and derailed a high-speed train, damaging the tracks.

In addition to the series of earthquakes near Ojiya, this morning, a 5.6-magnitude tremor struck Niigata, about 80 kilometers north of the epicenter of Saturday's quake. Additionally, the Japan Meteorological Agency warned that more large temblors are likely in the next week, Reuters reports.

Japan is one of the most seismically active places in the world, sitting at the boundary of four tectonic plates. In the 20th century alone, Japan was struck by nine individual earthquakes that killed more than 1,000 people. Saturday's earthquake occurred within the Okhotsk plate, about 350 kilometers east of the Japan Trench where the Pacific plate subducts beneath the Okhotsk plate, according to USGS. Within the last 30 years, there have been several significant earthquakes in this region.

This weekend marks the deadliest spate of quakes in Japan since the 1995 Kobe quake, which killed more than 6,000 people.

Megan Sever

Reuters news story
USGS Earthquake Hazards Program

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