Large Earthquake Hits Japan Sea Coast
Monday, July 16, 2007 Posted: 03:38 PM JST
An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 hit Niigata and Nagano prefectures at 10:43 this morning. In one of the worst hit areas, the city of Kashiwazaki with a population of 95,000, many hundreds of houses have been destroyed or damaged. At least one train derailed and more than 35,000 households are without water and gas. As of 3 PM Japanese time, two dead and more than 320 wounded have been reported.
NHK reported that smoke was seen rising from Kashiwazaki's nuclear reactor, the world's largest. The Japanese government said that several helicopters had been detached to check for radiation leaks and that none had been found. At least 3 of Niigata's 7 nuclear reactors have been shut down.
Shinkansen (Bullet Train) and other rail connections were halted, but most have now been restored.
Prime Minister Abe, who was in Nagasaki to campaign for this month's parliamentary elections, immediately returned to Tokyo. The central government has set up an emergency response center.
The earthquake comes two years after the same area was hit by the Chuetsu Earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.6. The Chuetsu Earthquake claimed 67 lives.
UPDATE 16:50 JST: The death toll now stands at 5.
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