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Strong Earthquake Hits Northeast Japan

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Strong Earthquake Hits Northeast Japan

Mon May 26, 3:45 PM ET

By GARY SCHAEFER, Associated Press Writer

TOKYO - The strongest earthquake to hit Japan in more than two years rumbled across the main island Monday, causing fires and landslides along its northeastern coast and rocking skyscrapers hundreds of miles away in Tokyo. Dozens of people were injured.

The quake registered a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 but its impact was limited, possibly because it was so deep, the nation's Meteorological Agency said.

The quake was centered 44 miles below the sea floor about 12 miles off the coast of northeastern Miyagi state, the agency said.

Thousands of travelers were stranded as officials suspended rail and road traffic to check for damage.

At least 54 people were hurt, most by falling household objects and broken glass, said Tomoki Sano, a spokesman for the National Policy Agency in Tokyo. Only six injuries were described as serious.

Media reports quoting local officials gave slightly higher estimates of the injured.

Monday's quake was felt across Japan's main island of Honshu. It cracked foundations and emptied store shelves in cities near the epicenter and caused skyscrapers to sway in Tokyo, 260 miles away.

Sano said 31 houses were damaged, all in the northern states of Miyagi, Iwate, Akita and Aomori, where most of the injuries occurred.

The quake set off 19 landslides in the region and caused three fires, one at a substation and two at houses, the police official said. About 35,000 homes lost power for about 45 minutes.

Meteorological Agency official Noritake Nishide described the epicenter as "relatively deep" and said there was no danger of tsunami, powerful waves that can be stirred up by seismic activity. More than 90 aftershocks were recorded Monday.

The quake was the strongest here since a magnitude-7.3 quake hit southwestern Tottori state in October 2000, injuring more than 130 people.

A magnitude 7.0 quake can cause major damage over a widespread area. More than 6,000 people were killed in the western city of Kobe when a magnitude-7.2 quake struck there in 1995.

Japan is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries and has accordingly adopted tough building standards.

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