Earthquake Hits Japan’s Industrial Heartland, Causing 3 Deaths; Trains, Factories Halted

By and | June 18, 2018

Three people were confirmed dead and almost 100 injured after a strong earthquake hit Osaka on Monday morning, rattling one of Japan’s industrial heartlands and halting trains and factories across the region.

The earthquake struck at 7:58 a.m. local time, with an initial magnitude of 5.9 that was later revised upwards to 6.1. At 13 kilometers (8.1 miles) it was relatively shallow, and caused heavy shaking that registered a lower 6 on the Japanese scale of 7. It was the strongest shaking registered in Osaka under records which date back to 1923. As the quake was centered inland, there was no fear of a tsunami.

All trains and subways across Osaka city were halted, and the bullet train that links Osaka to Tokyo was stopped. Power was quickly restored to more than 170,000 homes that had earlier been cut off, regional utility Kansai Electric Power Co. said. There were no reports of abnormalities at its nuclear plants in the region.

Three people were confirmed dead, including a nine-year-old girl, who was reported to have died after a school wall fell on her. Close to 100 people suffered injuries, according to the government’s emergency and disaster task force.

Footage on national broadcaster NHK showed flooding from burst underground water pipes, train passengers forced to exit along train lines, and schoolchildren gathering outside in precautionary evacuations.

While the quake appeared to spare the region of major infrastructural damage, the Meteorological Agency warned that strong aftershocks could occur, particularly in the next two to three days. In 2016, the magnitude 7 earthquake that caused significant damage and multiple casualties in southern Kumamoto was preceded two days earlier by a magnitude 6.2 temblor.

Industrial Heartland

The quake struck in one of Japan’s main manufacturing heartlands, home to companies including Panasonic Corp., Nintendo Co. and Keyence Corp, and plants across the area were halted as firms assessed the damage.

Automakers Honda Motor Co., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. unit Daihatsu all stopped production at plants in the region. JXTG Energy shut its Osaka refinery and halted shipments, while industrial machinery maker Kubota Corp., brewer Asahi Group Holdings and cosmetics maker Shiseido Co. all stopped work at factories.

Market reaction to the event was largely muted, with shares in some companies located in the region including Osaka Gas dropping, while Sumitomo Osaka Cement Co. and electrical contractor Kinden Corp. gained as the extent of damage from the quake remained unclear.

A major earthquake has long been feared in the area, which is located near several major faults. Osaka is set to host the G-20 meeting in June 2019. In 1995, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake killed more than 6,000 people when it struck in neighboring Kobe.

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