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BREAKING NEWS: Japan Earthquakes Claim 20 Lives

Sunday, October 24, 2004 Posted: 10:39 AM JST

The series of quakes that have been hitting Niigata Prefecture since yesterday evening have caused widespread destruction. The number of fatalities has now been updated to 20. Most casualties are elderly people, some due to acute heart failure, many because they were buried in their homes. Three children died when their house collapsed. Some 1,500 people have been injured. Throughout Niigata over 61,000 residents were evacuated.

The first quake hit at 5:56 p.m. with its focus 20 kilometers below ground. Subsequent quakes were focused about 10 km below ground. There were no tsunamis. By 5 a.m. this morning some 234 noticeable quakes had been measured.

These quakes have already broken several records. It is the first time a Shinkansen bullet train has been derailed in the train's 40 year history. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency it is also the first time in Japan that quakes measuring 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 occurred four times in a day. Aftershocks continue regularly and the agency warns for landslides as the ground has been loosened up by the torrential rains that fell in the wake of this week's typhoon Tokage.

Roads and mountain slopes have caved in on numerous locations. Local highways and train connections have been completely cut. About 280,000 households lost electricity, in some of these areas the power supply has already been restored.

The Japanese government has set up a task force in the crisis management center at Prime Minister Koizumi's office. An 11-member advance team is in Niigata Prefecture to precede a visit today by disaster management minister Yoshitaka Murata. The National Police Agency has also set up a disaster security headquarters, while the Self-Defense Forces has been officially requested for assistance by the Niigata prefectural government.

Keywords: national_news disasters

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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