July 20, 2007

The effects of Niigata earthquake

I am sure by now you would have heard about the earthquake that hit Niigata on July 16 2007. The earthquake was so intense that 10 people were killed and thousands were injured. The quake, which occurred at 10:17 a.m. on a day that is a national holiday in Japan, toppled hundreds of wooden houses and tore three-foot-wide fissures in the ground. Highways and bridges buckled, leaving officials struggling to get emergency supplies into the region. It toppled one local train off its rails and caused the shutdown of service on a high-speed intercity "bullet train" line for several hours.

At least 10,000 people fled to evacuation centers as aftershocks rattled the area. Tens of thousands of homes were left without water or power.

Japan's Meteorological Agency also recorded a large disturbance off the west coast that shook wide areas of Japan, but said it was unrelated to the Niigata quake to the north and there were no immediate reports of damage.

The earthquake was centered off the coast of Niigata, a prefecture that was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2004. Skyscrapers in Tokyo, about 130 miles southeast of Niigata, swayed for almost a minute from the tremor.

Nuclear reactors at power plants were shut down automatically, but the quake caused a small fire at an electrical transformer at a nuclear plant in Kashiwazaki, a coastal town close to the quake's epicenter.

The quake triggered a fire in an electrical transformer and also caused a leak of radioactive water at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant, the world's largest in terms of electricity output.

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