Aftershocks rattle western japan after quake injures 120

Saturday, October 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAKAIMINATO, Japan (AP) _ Hundreds of aftershocks rumbled through parts of southwest Japan on Saturday, a day after a powerful earthquake struck, injuring at least 120 people and damaging thousands of homes.

A magnitude 4.9 quake shook Tottori Prefecture (state), 315 miles southwest of Tokyo, early Saturday followed by a series of slightly smaller temblors.

The Meteorological Agency said more than 812 shakings, including 213 strong enough to be felt by humans, were recorded since Friday's quake struck the area.

Friday's magnitude 7.3 quake, centered six miles underground in Tottori, buckled streets, knocked down houses and paralyzed road and rail traffic for hours in the largely rural area.

None of the injuries were reported to be life-threatening, and main transportation routes had almost been completely restored to the area by Saturday evening.

Also Saturday, a magnitude 4.6 quake jolted the northernmost main island of Hokkaido Saturday morning, centered about 37 miles below the ground in southern Hokkaido.

Police said there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from that quake.

Friday's quake was the strongest in Japan since the magnitude 7.2 temblor that struck Kobe on Jan. 17, 1995, killing 6,425 people and destroying 250,000 homes.

Had such a strong quake hit Tokyo instead of largely rural Tottori, it could have left an estimated 7,000 dead and millions homeless.

National police said that 2,230 homes had been damaged in Friday's quake, and thousands of people were still evacuated either because their homes were unsafe or because they feared further aftershocks.

At Sakaiminato, among the towns closest to the epicenter, port facilities and an industrial complex built on landfills were damaged as the repeated shakings loosened the soil.

The relatively light damage for such a strong earthquake prompted officals Saturday to say they may have to lower their assessment of the quake's strength.

``Depending on the extent of damages, there is a possibility that the figure might be revised later,'' said Masahiro Hijikata, an official with the Central Meteorological Agency.

Still, the quake-struck areas have plenty of cleaning up to do.

Seven bridges collapsed and were washed away in the region, including one in Okayama. Landslides were reported in 65 locations. Roads were ruined in 123 spots.

The city nearest to the epicenter was Yonago, an old castle town with a population of about 134,000. In 1943, a magnitude 7.2 quake hit eastern Tottori, killing more than 1,000 people.