Powerful 6.4 and 7.6 quakes strike Japan, India

Breitbart (Link) - AFP (August 10, 2009)

Powerful earthquakes just over 10 minutes apart rattled Japan and India Tuesday, triggering panic on fears of a tsunami in the Andaman Islands and injuring dozens of people southwest of Tokyo.

The unrelated quakes struck in the early hours, shutting down bullet train services in the affected region of Japan and provoking a landslide with the nation already braced for more damage from Typhoon Etau.

At least 43 people were injured, mostly by falling objects, with two in a serious condition, said a Shizuoka prefecture official. A nuclear power plant went into automatic shutdown but no incidents were registered.

In an address on Japanese public broadcaster NHK, Shizuoka governor Heita Kawakatsu urged the public to "remain level-headed and gather correct information we provide through TV programmes."

The Japanese tremor registered a strong 6.4 while the quake off the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean was a huge 7.6, according to the US Geological Survey.

Panic-stricken islanders fled their homes, fearing a repeat of the enormous Asian tsunami that devastated the Andamans in 2004 and killed around 220,000 people in the region as a whole.

"It was very frightening. Everything started shaking and people were running out of their homes," said Mrinal Sarkar, a villager in Diglipur in the northern Andamans.

"People are afraid to go back inside," Sarkar told AFP.

But a tsunami alert issued for India, Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh was later cancelled by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center of the US National Weather Service.

"Sea level readings indicate that a significant tsunami was not generated," it said.

The police control centre in Port Blair, the main town of the Andamans, said there were no immediate reports of any major damage or casualties.

The quake hit at 1:55 am (1955 GMT Monday) around 263 kilometres north of Port Blair, and was around 33 kilometres deep. Mild tremors were felt 1,190 kilometres away in the eastern Indian port city of Chennai.

Mrinal Sarkar, a resident of Diglipur island near the epicentre, told AFP by telephone that the quake had caused panic in the middle of the night.

"It was very frightening. Everything started shaking and people were running out of their homes," Sarkar told AFP. "People are afraid to go back inside."

The Japanese quake struck at 5:07 am (2007 GMT Monday) in the Pacific Ocean about 170 kilometres southwest of Tokyo at a depth of 26.8 kilometres.

It shook buildings and jolted people from their sleep in Tokyo and areas southwest of the capital.

Japan's Meteorological Agency, which measured the quake at a revised 6.5, said there was no risk of a tsunami after initial waves raised the ocean surface by about 40 centimetres (16 inches) at Omaezaki, Shizuoka.

A large landslide triggered by the quake damaged a highway in the prefecture at Makinohara, causing long traffic jams, television footage showed.

The Meteorological Agency warned that Typhoon Etau -- whose torrential rains have caused at least 13 deaths from flooding and landslides in Japan -- could trigger further landslides as it moved northeast along the coast.

"Please be vigilant," an agency official urged the public.

The typhoon was not forecast to make a direct landfall, but it was predicted to lash the Tokyo region with strong winds and heavy rains.

The quake caused power failures in 9,500 households, utility officials said, while Central Japan Railway Co. suspended Shinkansen bullet trains in the quake-hit region before resuming the services several hours later.

Prime Minister Taro Aso's office set up an emergency centre shortly after the quake, which was followed by 13 noticeable aftershocks.

Around 20 percent of the world's most powerful earthquakes strike Japan.

The Andaman Sea area witnesses frequent tremors caused by the meeting of the Indian tectonic plate with the Burmese microplate.