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Strong Earthquake Shakes North Japan

May 26, 2003

TOKYO (AP) _ A powerful earthquake rocked northeastern Japan on Monday, causing blackouts and forcing authorities to temporarily shut down highways, railways and even Tokyo’s main airport, more than 250 miles away.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 and was centered 40 miles below the sea floor off the coast of northeastern Miyagi prefecture, Japan’s Meteorological Agency said.

It struck at 6:24 p.m. (5:24 a.m. EDT).

Local officials quoted by public service broadcaster NHK said some areas were suffering electricity and water outages immediately after the quake but had no further details. Major highways and railways were also closed as officials checked for damage.

A road buckled in the northeastern city of Ishinomaki and a house in the city caught fire, said local disaster official Norio Kumagai.

NHK also reported that the earthquake was strong enough to knock people over in the city of Sendai. A fire was reported in Sendai, but it was not clear if it was related to the quake.

The quake was strong enough to shake items off shelves in several towns near the epicenter and cause tall buildings to sway in Tokyo, 260 miles to the south. Authorities at downtown Haneda airport briefly suspended takeoffs and landings to check the condition of runways, and bullet train service to northeastern Japan was also stopped.

The Meteorological Agency said there was no danger of tsunami, powerful waves that can be stirred up by seismic activity.

A moderate earthquake also jolted northeastern Taiwan on Monday, but no damage or casualties were immediately reported.

The 4.9-magnitude tremor was centered about 1.8 miles south of the coastal city of Ilan, the Central Weather Bureau said.

Ilan is about 70 miles southeast of the capital of Taipei.