Strict Quake Standards Spare Japan Again, But Factory Lines Suspendend
Kashiwazaki (AFP) Jul 18, 2007
The massive earthquake that struck central Japan this week proved again that the country's strict quake-resistance standards and preparations can limit casualties. The 6.8-magnitude earthquake destroyed more than 340 houses, triggered landslides and cut off roads. But while such a disaster could kill thousands in many parts of the world, the death toll was limited to nine so far with one person missing.
Japan, which endures 20 percent of the world's strong earthquakes, enforces strict standards for building construction. It also has an intricate system of airing alerts for disasters, particularly tsunamis.
"Japan's quake-resistance levels for buildings and disaster prevention measures are outstanding for Asia and probably the highest in the world," said Takaaki Shiratori, senior researcher at Asian Disaster Center based in Kobe.
"The earthquake this time proved again that high levels of earthquake safety for buildings and swift and organised responses to a major disaster are key to limiting casualties."
Shiratori also said Japan had been spared the worst as the earthquake's epicentre was in relatively sparsely populated areas.
He warned, however, that traditional wooden houses built before the government introduced strict building standards in 1981 were vulnerable.
"In reality, it costs a lot of money to reinforce houses," Shiratori said.
"Socially weak people, namely elderly, are well aware of the importance but they can't afford to do so because of their financial situation. Therefore, poor people are more exposed to danger than rich people."
Authorities said the nine victims were all in their 70s or 80s, while many of 1,000 injuries were caused by damage to wooden houses.
Japan lies at the junction of four tectonic plates, meaning that Tokyo and other major cities are frequently jolted by earthquakes.
Despite the preparations to limit casualties, Japan suffered a scare in the latest earthquake as a fire broke out at a nuclear reactor, which leaked radioactive water.
earlier related report
But large firms expressed hope that the damage wrought by Monday's tremor -- which measured 6.8 on the Richter scale -- would be less severe than that caused by a quake of a similar magnitude that rocked the same region in 2004.
Japanese share prices suffered modest losses, led lower by insurers as investors waited for a clearer indication of the financial costs.
The Tokyo Stock Exchange's benchmark Nikkei-225 index of leading shares ended the day down 21.68 points or 0.12 percent to 18,217.27. The market was closed on Monday for a public holiday.
Among companies affected by the quake northwest of Tokyo, auto parts maker Riken Corp. said it was unsure when it would resume operations because aftershocks were continuing to rattle the region.
It said one of its warehouses was partly damaged, machinery was bumped around and some equipment and stockpiles toppled over following the quake, which killed at least nine people and injured more than 1,000.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. Inc. (TEPCO) was forced to shut down its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, the largest in the world, and reported that a small amount of radioactive water leaked into the sea following the quake.
TEPCO shares fell 40 yen or 1.06 percent to 3,750.
Japan Petroleum Exploration Co Ltd (JAPEX) said it had suspended production at one of its oil and natural gas fields in the area after the quake cut the water supply to the site.
However, it said the total production level would be maintained by increasing output of other fields in the region.
Among insurers, Sompo Japan fell 34 yen or 2.25 percent to 1,474 and Millea Holdings dropped 90 yen or 1.73 percent to 5,110.
Electronics maker Sanyo Electric Co., which suffered major damage at one of its semiconductor plants during the 2004 quake, said that this time the factory appeared to have escaped major damage.
"Employees were evacuated immediately although no one was injured. There is no damage to buildings," said Sanyo spokesman Akihiko Oiwa.
He said production remained suspended as aftershocks rattled the plant but the company expected to resume operations there later Tuesday. Sanyo Electric Co. shares closed down one yen at 191.
Fuji Xerox Co., which has a plant in the affected area, said it was still unsure how badly its facilities were affected because of disruption to power and telecommunications.
"We are unable to assess the extent of the damage or the situation. Until we reinstall communication, we can't give any more details," said company spokeswoman Hiroko Hattori.
Bourbon, a confectionery manufacturer headquartered in badly hit Kashiwazaki, said that its facilities had been only lightly damaged, while glass maker Okamoto Glass said it also appeared to have escaped serious damage.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Jakarta (AFP) Jul 05, 2007
Hundreds of hectares of land inundated by sludge spewed from a devastating "mud volcano" in Indonesia should be developed to raise catfish, a minister said Thursday. "We have tested this and it has been proven that catfish can be raised in ponds made of the mud," environment minister Rachmat Witoelar told AFP. Witoelar said the government's priority was now to try to reduce the mud outflow or halt it if possible, but that long term plans were being prepared to make use of the land currently submerged by the mud.
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