Building on fire as strong earthquake jolts east Japan

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 22, 2011 11:13 AM
Building on fire as strong earthquake jolts east Japan

TOKYO (Reuters) - An earthquake measuring 7.9 struck off the northeast coast of Japan on Friday, shaking buildings in the capital Tokyo, causing at least one fire and triggering a six-meter (20-foot) tsunami warning, NHK television and witnesses reported.

The public broadcaster showed black smoke billowing from a building in Odaiba, a Tokyo suburb, and bullet trains to the north of the country have been halted.

NHK said a tsunami of 50 cm (20 inches) had hit Japan's northern coast.

The U.S. Geological Survey verified a magnitude of 7.9 at depth of 15.1 miles and located the quake 81 miles east of Sendai, Honshu. The stock market extended its losses after the quake was announced.

Japan's northeast Pacific coast, called Sanriku, has suffered from quakes and tsunamis in the past and a 7.2 quake struck on Wednesday. In 1933, a magnitude 8.1 quake in the area killed more than 3,000 people. Last year fishing facilities were damaged after by a tsunami caused by a strong tremor in Chile.

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world's most seismically active areas. The country accounts for about 20 percent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

(Tokyo bureau and Asia Desk, Singapore +65 6870 3815)