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Japanese Earthquake Victims Spend Restless Night

A crack is seen on a road in Shiga town in Ishikawa prefecture after a massive earthquake attacked northern Japan 25 March 2007. One woman was killed and dozens more injured when a 6.9-magnitude earthquake rocked Japan's main island of Honshu. Photo courtesy AFP.

Japan's quake early warning system passes first real test
Tokyo (AFP) March 25 - Japan's earthquake early-warning system swung into action for the first time on Sunday as a huge tremor struck, allowing authorities to issue a tsunami alert about one minute later. The system detects the first underground tremors that come before the main quake and estimates their intensity before big seismic waves reach the surface. "That's why we could issue the alert in a minute," said Yosuke Igarashi, an official at the meteorological agency. "We started operation of the early-warning system last year, but until now there was no opportunity to use it to issue a tsunami warning," he said. Before the new system was introduced it usually took the agency about three minutes to issue a tsunami alert after a major quake. The 6.9-magnitude quake occurred at around 9:42 am (0042 GMT) in Ishikawa prefecture, about 300 kilometres (200 miles) northwest of the capital Tokyo, killing one person and injuring at least 170 others, officials said. The tsunami warning urging residents to head to higher ground on the Noto peninsula facing the Sea of Japan (East Sea) was lifted after about two hours. The system for tsunami alerts was introduced in October, officials said. Japan, which endures 20 percent of the world's major tremors, prides itself on having one of the world's most accurate systems for assessing earthquakes and predicting tsunamis.
by Shingo Ito
Wajima (AFP) Japan, March 26, 2007
Earthquake victims were spending a restless night in shelters early Monday as aftershocks continued to jolt Japan following a powerful quake that killed one person and injured about 170 others.

More than 1,000 residents took cover in emergency shelters after the 6.9-magnitude quake hit this quiet fishing city in the Noto peninsula on the west coast of Japan's main island of Honshu.

"I'm really exhausted but can't sleep," said Yoshiko Matsubara, an 80-year-old housewife, whose home was badly damaged. Walls collapsed and the house was covered with shattered glass.

Matsubara was among some 30 local residents, mostly in their 50s or older, who flocked to a community hall, where some people warmed themselves by a portable stove while others helped serve food such as steamed rice and instant noodles.

People cringed and looked around with fear as aftershocks, including a powerful 5.3-magnitude quake, jolted the hall almost every 30 minutes.

"I couldn't use a mobile phone and the water supply was still cut off," a trembling Matsubara told AFP lying on a futon mattress. "Technology is just vulnerable to nature, isn't it?"

A 52-year-old woman died after being hit by a stone lantern in a garden, while two elderly men were seriously injured after being buried by a pile of fertiliser.

Tsutomu Kameoka, an 84-year-old woodcutter, said he had thought he would die without seeing such a terrible natural disaster.

"But it did happen to me finally," Kameoka said quietly. "Thank God, I'm still alive but I still feel unease. My house was barely okay, but I came here because I'm not comfortable alone there."

Ambulances sped through the darkness with sirens wailing, avoiding cracks on roads, some of which were covered with mud and trees following a massive landslide.

At least 162 people were injured. The injuries were mostly caused by flying objects, or as people were thrown off their feet by the first powerful tremor.

More than 200 buildings were damaged and 25 were completely destroyed in Wajima alone, many of them wooden houses with heavy tile roofs.

Employees at convenience stores were cleaning away broken bottles which had fallen from the shelves, while local residents were working together to support brick walls with logs.

"I barely survived the day but I don't know what our life is going to be like from now on," said Shigeharu Muraguchi, a 52-year-old employee at a Japanese kimono shop in Wajima.

"It will take some time to restart my job as the shop was badly messed up," said Muraguchi. "I can't sleep as I think about our future."

His wife, Toshiko Muraguchi, 51, said: "I dodged cans and other stuff falling on me as I was at a supermarket, where I was working. I was already tired mentally. I never dreamed this would happen to us."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Antananarivo (AFP) March 21, 2007
Thirty-six people were killed and nearly 54,000 people were left homeless after a cyclone struck northern Madagascar last week, according to revised figures released on Wednesday. "Today we count 36 dead and 53,750 affected people," Jacky Randriaharison, the head of national emergencies bureau BNGRC, told AFP.

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