Magnitude-6.8 earthquake hits Japan, 39 injured

  • Agencies, Tokyo
  • Updated: Nov 23, 2014 17:00 IST

A strong 6.2 magnitude earthquake in central Japan left 39 people injured, seven seriously, and wrecked homes in a popular ski resort, the government said Sunday.

The quake struck at 10:08 pm local time (1308 GMT) Saturday at a depth of 10 kilometres (six miles) at the epicentre, in the north of Nagano Prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, according to the US Geological Survey.

Ryo Nishino, a restaurant owner in Hakuba, a ski town west of Nagano, told Japanese broadcaster NHK that he had "never experienced a quake that shook so hard. The sideways shaking was enormous." He said he was in the restaurant's wine cellar when the quake struck, and that nothing broke there.

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority said no abnormalities were reported at three nuclear power plants in the affected areas.

All of Japan's nuclear plants are offline following a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami in 2011 that sent three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant into meltdown.

Fukushima is about 250 kilometers (155 miles) northeast of where Saturday's earthquake occurred.

Thirty people were injured, at least two seriously, the Federal Disaster Management Agency said on Sunday.

"We are trying to assess the situation as quickly as possible, and we'll do our utmost for the rescue of the injured people," Japan's top government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, told reporters.

One of the hardest-hit areas appeared to be Hakuba, which hosted events in the 1998 games. At least seven homes collapsed, and other buildings were also severely damaged, local and national disaster agencies said. Seventeen people were injured.

The National Police Agency told Japan's Kyodo news agency that 21 people were trapped underneath the collapsed houses, but they all were rescued, with two of them injured.

Many houses also lost water, apparently because of a ruptured pipe, and landslides on two major roads blocked access to some areas.

"We are afraid there could be some areas that may have been isolated, so we need to conduct a thorough assessment of damage after sunrise," said Shigeharu Fujimura, a Nagano prefecture disaster management official.

The earthquake was felt across much of northern Japan and in Tokyo, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of Hakuba.

(With inputs from AP and AFP)

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