Air probe shows true quake damage

Published: Sunday 23rd November 2014 by The News Editor

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Helicopter surveys have shown the damage from an earthquake in Japan’s mountainous central area that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics is more extensive than expected.

At least 37 homes were destroyed in two villages and 39 people were injured across the region, including seven seriously, mostly with broken bones.

The magnitude-6.7 earthquake struck shortly after 10pm local time (1pm GMT) yesterday, west of Nagano city at a depth of six miles, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. Since the quake occurred inland there was no possibility of a tsunami.

Ryo Nishino, a restaurant owner in Hakuba, a ski resort village west of Nagano, told Japanese broadcaster NHK that he had “never experienced a quake that shook so hard” and “the sideways shaking was enormous”. He said he was in the restaurant’s wine cellar when the quake struck.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said no abnormalities were reported at three 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 155 miles north east of yesterday’s earthquake.

The hardest-hit area appeared to be Hakuba, which hosted events in the 1998 games. At least 30 homes were destroyed and 17 people injured, the Nagano regional government said. Another seven homes were lost in Otari, a nearby village to the north. Non-residential buildings were also destroyed, with officials still assessing the extent.

Japanese TV showed buildings in various states of collapse, some flattened and others leaning to one side, and deep cracks in the roads. A landslide spilled on to a railway track, forcing services to stop. About 200 people evacuated to shelters, almost all from Hakuba and Otari.

Shigeharu Fujimori, a Nagano disaster management official, said it was fortunate there were no deaths reported despite the extent of the damage.

All 21 people trapped under collapsed houses were rescued, with two of them injured. Japanese television showed police going house to house, calling out to make sure that residents were accounted for.

“The hardest-hit area was in the mountains and sparsely populated, where neighbours have a close relationship and help each other,” Mr Fujimori said. “So I don’t think anyone has been forgotten or left isolated.”

Shinkansen bullet train service in the region was restored after a short delay but Chubu Electric Power said 200 homes were still without in darkness.

The quake was followed by more than 45 aftershocks, and Meteorological Agency spokesman Yohei Hasegawa urged residents to watch out for landslides. The area was struck by a magnitude-6.7 earthquake the day after the huge March 2011 quake.

Published: Sunday 23rd November 2014 by The News Editor

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