3 dead, scores injured as 6.1 magnitude quake rocks Japan's Osaka

Xinhua
At least three people have been confirmed dead and more than 90 others injured as a result of a 6.1 magnitude earthquake striking Osaka prefecture on Monday morning.
Xinhua

At least three people have been confirmed dead and more than 90 others injured as a result of a 6.1 magnitude earthquake striking Osaka prefecture in western Japan on Monday morning.

According to local authorities, in Takatsuki, Osaka Prefecture, a 9-year-old girl was killed when a wall at a swimming pool collapsed and a man in his 80s was confirmed dead after his house in the city of Osaka collapsed.

Police and local district headquarters also said that another man in his 80s in the city of Ibaraki was seriously injured after being trapped under a bookshelf and was later pronounced dead after being rushed to a hospital.

According to the government, while local authorities have suggested the number is likely to rise, at least 91 people have been injured across multiple prefectures in western Japan as a result of the strong quake.

Japan's disaster management minister Hachiro Okonogi said there are people buried under the rubble of a collapsed building in Osaka with local rescue officials trying to rapidly locate them, while firefighters are grappling to extinguish a serious blaze at a house in northern Osaka.

According to local media reports, there have been numerous outbreaks of fires and burst pipes flooding roads as a result of the quake, and at least 14 people are believed to be trapped inside elevators, local rescue officials said.

While no tsunami warning or advisory was given as a result of the quake, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said the magnitude 6.1 earthquake was upwardly revised from a preliminary 5.9 temblor, which struck Osaka at 7:58am local time.

According to Kansai Electric Power Co., more than 170,000 homes in Osaka and neighboring Hyogo prefectures suffered blackouts as a result of the quake, although power has since been restored. But Osaka Gas Co. said it has suspended gas supply to around 108,000 households in the area as a precautionary measure against fires.

Local media reported that in the aftermath of the quake, dozens of people have fled to emergency evacuation centers across Osaka and a number of public schools have been closed with parents asked to hastily collect their children and take them to safety.

According to the Transport Ministry, both Shinkansen bullet train and local train services in the region have been suspended with thousands of passengers left stranded.

Rescue officials, according to local media accounts, have been helping those stranded on trains stuck between stations to get to safety.

Along with major commuter services being seriously disrupted, the three airports in the region, officials said, which were forced to temporarily suspend their services, have now reopened although a number of flights were delayed.

Japanese Self-Defense Force (SDF) fighter jets and helicopters have been deployed to the area to investigate the scene, government officials said.

The epicenter of the quake was located at a latitude of 34.8 degrees north and a longitude of 135.6 degrees east and at a preliminary depth of 10 km, which was later revised to about 13 km, according to the weather agency.

The quake logged lower 6 in some parts of Osaka prefecture and upper 5 in neighboring Kyoto prefecture on the Japanese seismic intensity scale which peaks at 7, according to the JMA.

The jolt was also felt in the nearby prefectures of Hyogo, Kyoto, Shiga and Nara.

Kansai Electric Power Co. said that no abnormalities were reported at the Takahama, Mihama and Oi nuclear plants in central Japan and in neighboring Fukui Prefecture. Officials said that all 15 nuclear reactors are still functioning as normal.

Senior government officials have convened an emergency meeting at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's office to assess the situation.

Abe told a press briefing on the incident that the government will make its utmost efforts to deal with the effects of the earthquake. He told reporters that government officials are operating under the instructions that saving and safeguarding peoples' lives is the priority.

The Japanese premier also said he has given instructions for local officials to carry out damage assessments as quickly as possible and do their very best to save and protect lives.

Abe went on to say that he wanted the public to be kept informed as the incident continues to unfold.

Japan's top government spokesperson, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, meanwhile, told a press briefing on the matter that so far there have been no reports of serious infrastructural damage as a result of the quake.

The JMA, for its part, has warned people in western Japan, however, to be on alert for further sizable earthquakes occurring in the next few days and to be vigilant for the possibility of buildings collapsing and rainy weather adding to the risk of potentially fatal mudslides henceforth.

The high-intensity tremors of the quake on Monday were owing to its shallow epicenter, seismologists said, with the government saying that the 6.1 -magnitude quake would likely not trigger the "megaquake" off western Japan that many experts have predicted will strike at some point in the not too distant future.

A quake measuring 7.3 in magnitude and the maximum 7 on Japan's seismic scale struck the region in 1995, claiming the lives of more than 6,000 people.

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