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Strong Earthquake Rattles Northern Japan

October 27, 2004

NAGAOKA, Japan (AP) _ A strong earthquake hit a quake-ravaged area of northern Japan on Wednesday, rocking already-damaged buildings and terrifying residents. At least five people were injured, and some buildings were damaged.

The 6.1-magnitude quake hit the same area where a 6.8-magnitude quake and a series of strong aftershocks struck on Saturday, killing at least 31 people and injuring some 2,500.

Homeless people in evacuation centers threw themselves to the floor and screamed in horror as the Wednesday temblor rumbled through the rural area of Niigata prefecture. A 4.2-magnitude aftershock hit about 25 minutes later.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said the stronger quake was centered at a depth of 6 miles in Hirokami, a village of 9,200 about 150 miles northwest of Tokyo. The agency warned another quake of similar strength could hit in the coming hours or days.

Five people were injured in the Wednesday morning quake, but it was unclear if any of them were in serious condition. One man suffered a stroke from the shock of the quake, said Hisao Ishikawa of the Niigata prefectural government.

``Aftershocks are continuing _ we don’t know what the damage situation is yet,″ said Kazumasa Sakurai, an official at the Hirokami city hall.

Sakurai said standing lamps and objects on desks where thrown to the floor by the force of the quake. But electricity and water services remained intact and there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage, another city official Kotaro Ikeda said.

Workers rescued an unharmed 80-year-old woman from the debris of a house that collapsed in Ojiya, one of the worst-hit areas on Saturday, officials said.

The train station in Nagaoka, the largest city in the quake zone, was badly shaken and in danger of collapse, and hundreds of travelers on platforms and passengers on trains were ordered to evacuate, said an official at East Japan Railway Co.’s Niigata office. NHK also reported that water and gas lines had broken in the area.

The quake, which hit at 10:40 a.m., was so strong that people in temporary shelters had difficulty standing, national broadcaster NHK reported. The temblor swayed buildings in the Japanese capital.

As of Wednesday morning, the number of households without electricity was 8,550, Tohoku Electric said in statistics posted on its website.

Niigata Airport had temporarily closed.

More than 100,000 residents are in public shelters following Saturday’s quake amid fears that the aftershocks would trigger more landslides. Thousands more camped out in tents and cars, too afraid to return home.

By Wednesday morning, more than 440 aftershocks strong enough to be felt had hit since Saturday.

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