The strongest earthquake to hit Japan in nine years struck on Saturday near Niigata, about 160 miles (260 km) north of Tokyo. 24 persons reportedly died and another 2000 were injured.
The quake measured 6.8 in magnitude on Japan’s modified Richter Scale. Over 300 aftershocks have been recorded. Thesrongest on Sunday night, which measured 5.6 and was felt as far away as Tokyo.
According to news reports (BBC and Reuters), at least 80,000 people have spent the last two nights in shelters, in their cars or outdoors, as their homes have been too heavily damaged to be considered safe. The quake tore up highways and railway lines, as roadbeds shifted and tunnels collapsed. A bullet train was derailed, but no serious injuries were reported. It also destroyed a number of buildings, and triggered landslides across the region.
Authorities are struggling to cope with the quake’s aftermath, and have called for additional supplies of water, food and clothing for the victims. Japan’s military has sent 960 troops to the area to help with rescue efforts, mobilizing 39 helicopters, four planes and 90 vehicles, according to defense ministry officials.
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