Friday, December 23, 2011

Powerful quakes rock New Zealand's Christchurch

WELLINGTON: New Zealand's Christchurch was Friday rocked by a fresh series of powerful earthquakes, sending terrified people fleeing into the streets 10 months after a devastating quake claimed 181 lives.

Two shallow quakes of magnitude 5.8 and 5.9 and a series of aftershocks struck as the town centre was packed with afternoon Christmas shoppers, sending stock tumbling from the shelves and turning the festive mood to panic.

The quakes, which closed the international airport and disrupted communications, were the latest in a series that began 15 months ago and have destroyed much of the inner-city.

Local news media reported people fleeing in fear as the quake and a series of aftershocks rattled the city, leading to liquefaction and flooding in some suburbs worst hit by previous earthquakes.

Liquefaction is caused when shaking loosens the bonds between soil particles, turning the ground into a quagmire.

"It was very frightening there for a wee moment," one resident, Brian Cornish, told National Radio.

"Everybody out in the car park was flung on the ground, liquefaction started up in the car park, the building rocked like crazy, all the cars were bouncing up and down on their springs."

"You can't underestimate the ongoing stress this has created for people," Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said, while Prime Minister John Key described the impact as "frightening and disheartening" for the beleaguered residents.

The lives of people in New Zealand's second largest city have been shattered by a series of earthquakes that began in September last year when a tremor of 7.0 struck.

That quake caused widespread destruction but because it hit just before dawn there were few casualties.

But on February 22, a lunchtime 6.3 quake killed 181 people and reduced much of the downtown area, including the city's Anglican cathedral, to a pile of rubble, while in the suburbs thousands of homes were written off.

The cost of repairing the city has been put at NZ$20 billion ($15.5 billion), and even after the latest quakes Key said the government's resolve to rebuild Christchurch remains unchanged.

Smaller earthquakes in the 3.0-4.0 range have become an almost daily occurrence in Christchurch but only a few thousand from a population of more than 350,000 people are reported to have left the city.

Deputy mayor Ngaire Button said the latest quakes coming at the end of a difficult year, were likely to make more people consider moving elsewhere but she doubted many would go.

"Every aftershock we've had, there have been people who have felt that way, we can't blame them for that," she said.

"We do recover, though, and hopefully tomorrow we'll all be feeling a little bit better again and restoring our faith in the will to live and the will to live in Christchurch."

One woman, Susan Holmes, told TV3 she had had enough.

"It's beyond devastating, It's happened again. I'm sick of it," a sobbing Holmes said as she faced the prospect of clearing debris from her home for the fourth time in 16 months."

The US Geological Survey said a 5.8-magnitude quake struck at 1:58 pm (0058 GMT) Friday at a depth of less than five kilometres (three miles). It was followed 70 minutes later by a 5.9 tremor at about the same depth.

One person was rushed to hospital after being injured in a shopping mall and the National Crisis Management Centre was activated.

Telephone services were cut in many areas and electricity supplies disrupted, but police said there were no reports of other injuries or widespread damage.

The international airport and shopping malls were all evacuated and closed as a precautionary measure.

"I'm pretty sure we will be open again this afternoon," airport chief executive Jim Boult told Radio New Zealand.

Police spokesman Stephen Hill said a few buildings collapsed and people were also urged to stay away from hill suburbs because of a risk of rockfalls.

Scientists had warned last month of an increased probability that another powerful earthquake would hit Christchurch.

"We knew to expect aftershocks and one in the range around about 6.0 was expected over the next 12 months and that appears to have arrived," Parker said.

New Zealand sits on the so-called "Ring of Fire" the boundary of the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, and experiences up to 15,000 tremors a year.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday, August 19, 2011

Magnitude 6.8 Quake Hits Japan, No Damage Reported

Published: Friday, 19 Aug 2011 | 2:33 AM ET By: Reuters

A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 jolted northeastern Japan off Fukushima prefecture on Friday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, although no damage was reported and a tsunami advisory for the area was lifted after no waves were sighted.--

Some highways were closed and high-speed bullet trains were halted after the quake, public broadcaster NHK said.

A 50 cm (20 inch) tsunami advisory was issued for the coastal areas of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures that were severely damaged by the massive March 11 quake and tsunami, but was lifted about 35 minutes late.

Tokyo Electric Power Co said no abnormalities had been found at radiation monitoring posts at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, about 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo, or the nearby Daini plant, and that cooling operations at the damaged reactors were continuing.

Tohoku Electric Power said there were no abnormalities at its Onagawa nuclear power plant, which has been shut since the March disaster.

The focus of the tremor was off the coast of Fukushima, 20 km below the earth's surface, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

On March 11, the northeast coast was struck by a magnitude 9 earthquake, the strongest on record in Japan, and a massive tsunami that triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The disaster left about 20,400 dead or missing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Magnitude 5.4 Quake Hits Central Japan; 7 Injured

Published: Wednesday, 29 Jun 2011 | 10:14 PM ET By: Reuters

A magnitude 5.4 earthquake hit central Japan and injured seven people on Thursday, but there were no immediate reports of major damage.

The epicentre of the earthquake, which struck around 8:16 a.m. was in Nagano prefecture, about 120 km (75 miles) from Tokyo, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

No tsunami warning was issued after the quake, the agency said. The magnitude was revised down from a preliminary reading of 5.5.

Seven people were taken to hospital including those hurt from falling objects, but the injuries did not appear serious, an official at the local fire department said.

Japan accounts for about 20 percent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

On March 11, the northeast coast was struck by a magnitude 9 earthquake, the strongest quake in Japan on record, and a massive tsunami, which triggered the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years, at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The disaster left up to 23,000 dead or missing.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Huge 7.4 earthquake rocks Alaskan islands

Posted: 24 June 2011 1138 hrs

WASHINGTON: A powerful 7.4-magnitude earthquake shook Alaska's remote Aleutian Islands late on Thursday, but US officials did not issue a tsunami warning for the Pacific Ocean.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

A tsunami advisory issued by the US West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center (WCATWC) warned nearby coastal residents to "move immediately inland to higher ground and away from all harbors and inlets including those sheltered directly from the sea."

The quake on the Fox Islands -- 101 miles (163 kilometers) east of the tiny fishing port of Atka -- struck at 6:09 pm local time (0309 GMT), the US Geological Survey said in a statement.

"Those feeling the earth shake, seeing unusual wave action or the water level rising or receding may have only a few minutes before the tsunami arrival and should move immediately," warned the WCATWC.

"Homes and small buildings are not designed to withstand tsunami impacts.

Do not stay in these structures," officials warned.

The quake struck more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) west of the major Alaskan city of Anchorage.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Powerful Quakes Rattle New Zealand City, 10 Injured

A series of powerful tremors rattled the quake-prone New Zealand city of Christchurch on Monday, destroying buildings and sending boulders tumbling down hillsides nearly four months after a quake killed 181 people.

There were no reported fatalities. New Zealand's Civil Defence said 10 people suffered minor injuries in the quakes, with the strongest put at a magnitude of 6.0 at 2.20 p.m. (0220 GMT) local time.

Buildings were evacuated and infrastructure damaged across the city, still trying to recover from the Feb. 22 6.3 magnitude earthquake.

Monday's quake knocked the New Zealand dollar [NZD=D4 Unavailable () ] lower and was seen as another hurdle to rebuilding New Zealand's second largest city, likely encouraging the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to keep interest rates on hold for longer.

"You can draw a picture already of a significant earthquake," Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker told Radio New Zealand. A cloud of dust had enveloped the city after the quakes, he said.

Civil Defence said two people had been rescued from a damaged church. There were no further reports of trapped people.

As with the initial quake, Monday's aftershock sent boulders on the city's Port Hills tumbling towards houses. Parts of the eastern city which suffered the most damage in February's tremor suffered from flooding and liquefaction - where solid ground is turned into liquid by the force of the quake.

New Zealand's GNS Institute said the earthquakes were within the expected pattern after February's tremor and could well trigger fresh seismic activity.

"We would expect a number of aftershocks in the magnitude 4.0 to 5.0 range on the coming days and weeks," said Kelvin Berryman, GNS's Manager of Natural Hazards Research.

Prime Minister John Key said the new tremor would probably affect recovery efforts. "I acknowledge that this is a setback for Christchurch, but it does not lessen our resolve to rebuild," he told reporters in parliament.

Power Cuts, Infrastructure Damaged

Power was cut to about 50,000 houses and there were reports of damage to roads, buildings and water supplies.

A number of homes were likely to remain without power overnight, with the temperature likely to dip close to freezing.

Christchurch has experienced a number of strong earthquakes since a magnitude 7.1 quake struck the city on Sept 4 last year.

On Monday, five tremors of magnitude 4.3 or greater were recorded from 0029 GMT. A 5.5 tremor at 0100 GMT was believed to have caused most of the damage 10 km (6 miles) south-east of the city centre at a depth of 11 km.

Parts of the city centre have been closed since the Feb 22 quake. One of the city's tallest buildings, the Grand Chancellor Hotel, has been declared unstable and is being prepared for demolition.

The cost to rebuild Christchurch after the quakes has been estimated at around NZ$15 billion ($12.2 billion).

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand cut rates after the February tremor to a record-equalling low of 2.50 percent. But signs of recovery and an upbeat assessment from the bank at its review last week have led markets to price in rate rises from December.

However, markets would start to ease back on expectations of a rate hike, said Tim Kelleher, CBA's vice president of institutional banking and markets.

"It puts things like the rebuild of Christchurch further on delay," he said.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Predicting the next big quake

By Augustine Anthuvan | Posted: 21 May 2011 1033 hrs

SUMATRA: A Banyan tree - well over a hundred years old - located on Simeulue island, has survived two tsunamis - a big one in 1907 and the recent one caused by the 2004 earthquake.

And those who survived continue to tell the story of the 1907 "Semong", the local word for tsunami.

Kerry Sieh, Director of the Earth Observatory of Singapore, said: "The reason that villagers here were able to escape is because their grandparents, their great grandparents passed down to them the story of what happened in 1907.

"When the tsunami hit in 2004, the water tore all these buildings off their foundations, all you see are the slab foundations, so you can see it was pretty strong. It ripped them off their foundations leaving that little building, leaving the mosque...the wave was about four metres high.

"In 1907, the villagers said that (according to the story), the wave was about 10 metres or they learnt from that event in 1907. That when you feel a big earthquake, you run to the hills as fast as you can. They did that and no one in this village died."

However, Mr Sieh said survival in earthquake prone areas would require looking beyond oral traditions.

"If you pass things down from generation to generation, say like the Pacific North West Indians in the United States did about the big eruption of Mount Mazama in Oregon, 6,000 years of oral tradition, that's wonderful but it's rare and in big cities people don't tend to have these oral traditions.

"What I'm submitting to you is...geology can tell you a lot if you're willing to pay attention to it. Now the Japanese were caught short in that regard recently, even though they were the most prepared people in the world for tsunamis and earthquakes. They didn't pay enough attention to the geological evidence."

Geological evidence of the 1907 earthquake at Simeulue Island is in the form of a coral head, that popped up 1.3 metres out of the water.

"In a sense that's a seismogram, it's a record of an old earthquake," said Mr Sieh.

An island off the west coast of Nias became 10 times its original size after the 2005 earthquake.

Data from coral reef upliftments on this "new" island are helping scientists to understand the patterns of great earthquakes on the Sunda megathrust.

Mr Sieh said: "The corals show and the Dutch records show there was a big earthquake in 1861. After 1861, the island rose but then it slowly subsided, as the megathrust carried the subducting slab down, so it went down...if it kept going down for a couple of decades, this whole island would have disappeared beneath the water.

"But just in time, the next one happened and the island grew again so now its subsiding again. It will subside a centimetre per year over the next century or so and then (it will) pop up come again."

Scientists are now able to forecast the location of where an impending large Sumatran earthquake might hit. But challenges remain. For one, authorities will have to translate that knowledge into planning and changing land use and finding meaningful ways to protect the majority of the people that are likely to be affected.


Moderate quake hits Philippines

Posted: 22 May 2011 0000 hrs

MANILA: An earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale hit the northern Philippines late Saturday, causing localised power outages as buildings swayed, but no casualties were reported, officials said.

The epicentre of the quake, which struck at 9:08pm (1308 GMT), was a few kilometres northeast of Ilagan, the capital of Isabela province, a duty officer with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology told AFP.

There were no reports of casualties around the city of about 131,000 more than an hour later, said Inspector Joel Dulin, the senior officer on duty at the signal department of the Isabela police.

"We have been contacting the other (Isabela) municipalities for any reports of damage or casualties, but so far it has been negative," he added.

"Power outages hit some parts of Ilagan," Dulin told AFP, and the provincial police headquarters there were among areas left without electricity.

Police officer Lito Piga, duty officer for the region's civil defence office located in Tuguegarao, 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Ilagan, said the two-storey building swayed noticeably.

"I ran downstairs, but when we inspected the building for cracks later on we did not find any," he told AFP.

The US Geological Survey, which uses a different scale, said the quake had a magnitude of 5.3 and put its depth at 45 kilometres.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Moderate quake hits China's Sichuan province

Posted: 15 May 2011 1705 hrs

BEIJING - A 5.0-magnitude tremor hit the Chinese province of Sichuan on Sunday, the US Geological Survey said, three years after a giant quake left 87,000 dead or missing in the region.

The tremor struck at 3:05 pm (0705 GMT) at a depth of 15 kilometres (nine miles) with an epicentre 31 kilometres west of the city of Guangyuan, the USGS said. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

An 8.0-magnitude quake rocked Sichuan and parts of neighbouring Shaanxi and Gansu provinces on May 12, 2008, killing tens of thousands and flattening swathes of the province.

China's government issued a plan in September 2008 to rebuild 51 quake-struck counties covering 130,000 square kilometres (50,200 square miles), the official Xinhua news agency said.

Mu Hong, a vice director of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planning agency, said last week that work on 95 percent of the reconstruction projects in the plan had been completed.

China has spent nearly 800 billion yuan ($123 billion) to rebuild in the region, senior officials said last week.

- AFP /ls

Moderate quake hits Afghanistan

Posted: 15 May 2011 0621 hrs

KABUL: A 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck Afghanistan's mountainous Hindu Kush region near the Pakistani border early Sunday, US seismologists said, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

The quake hit at 01:37am (2107 GMT Saturday) some 75 kilometres (46 miles) south-southeast of Feyzabad and 256 kilometres from the capital Kabul, the United States Geological Survey said in a report.

Its epicentre was 207 kilometres deep, and was 140 kilometres from Khorugh in Tajikistan and 236 kilometres from Mingora in Pakistan, USGS said.

Northern Afghanistan and Pakistan are frequently hit by earthquakes, especially around the Hindu Kush range near the collision of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

A 7.6-magnitude earthquake in Pakistan in October 2005 killed 74,000 people and displaced 3.5 million.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fresh Quake in Japan

Posted: 14 May 2011 1006 hrs

TOKYO: A 6.2-magnitude earthquake on Saturday hit off the coast of northeastern Japan, still reeling from the massive March 11 quake and tsunami, according to the US Geological Survey.

The quake struck at 8:35 am (2325 GMT Friday), 59 kilometres (36 miles) northeast of the Pacific coast city of Iwaki at a depth of nearly 38 kilometres, the USGS said.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties and no tsunami warning was issued.

The northeastern coast of Japan's main Honshu island was ravaged by a 9.0-magnitude quake and monster tsunami on March 11, leaving 24,525 people dead or missing, according to the latest count by the National Police Agency.

- AFP/cc

Indonesian Quake

Posted: 14 May 2011 0813 hrs

JAKARTA: A 5.2-magnitude earthquake struck beneath the sea between Australia's Christmas Island and the Indonesian island of Java on Saturday, US seismologists said, but no tsunami warning was immediately issued.

There were no immediate reports of damage from the quake, which struck at 4:43 am (2143 GMT Friday) 224 kilometres (139 miles) from Christmas Island and 303 kilometres from Tasikmalaya city in Java, at a relatively shallow depth of 12.5 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where the meeting of continental plates causes high seismic activity, and is frequently hit by earthquakes.


6.0-magnitude quake rattles Costa Rica

Posted: 14 May 2011 0801 hrs

SAN JOSE : A 6.0-magnitude earthquake shook Costa Rica on Friday, alarming residents of the Central American country and causing minor damage but no known injuries, authorities said.

The quake struck at around 4:47 pm (2247 GMT), 25 kilometres (16 miles) northwest of San Jose, according to the US Geological Survey, which gave its magnitude as 6.0.

It was felt with particular intensity in San Jose's western Escazu and Santa Ana neighbourhoods, upscale areas where many diplomats and foreign business executives have their homes.

"It broke all the glasses in my bar," said an Argentine resident who lives on the sixth floor of a building in Escazu.

Residents in the area around the San Jose International Airport reported power outages that impacted traffic lights during the daily rush hour.

Cellphone service was disrupted in some areas, and some small landslides were reported on the road connecting the capital to the Pacific coast.

"It felt very strong. Some of the tiles on the houses in the condominium fell. People ran outside, frightened," said Carolina Diaz, a Chilean who lives in the centre of the city.

Local media reported that the shock waves were felt along the country's Pacific coast, and less strongly on the Caribbean side of the country.

The quake occurred at a depth of 70 kilometres (43.5 miles).

Juan Segura, the director of Costa Rica's Volcanology and Seismology Observatory, said it was caused by the impact of the Coco and Caribe plates.

He said it was the most serious earthquake in Costa Rica since a 6.2-magnitude quake in January 2009 that killed 23 people and destroyed dozens of houses in Volcan Poas, a tourist area 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the capital.

That quake was the strongest to hit the popular ecotourism and beach holiday destination in 150 years.

The Costa Rican Red Cross appealed for calm, and urged the public "to remain on alert in case of aftershocks".

- AFP/wk/ms

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

5.1 quake kills eight, topples buildings in Spain

Posted: 12 May 2011 0213 hrs

LORCA, Spain - A magnitude 5.1 quake killed at least eight people in southern Spain on Wednesday, sending historic buildings crashing down as panicked residents fled for their lives.

Eight people perished in the deadliest tremor in Spain in more than five decades, a spokeswoman for the regional government of Murcia said, revising down an earlier toll of 10 dead without explanation.

The quake collapsed fronts of buildings in the southeastern town of Lorca and ripped open walls, which slumped into the streets.

Witnesses reported many injuries.

A church clocktower smashed to the ground and narrowly missed one television reporter as he conducted an interview in the town on Spanish public broadcaster TVE. A bronze bell lay in the rubble.

Fearful residents including families with children gathered outside with blankets as night fell. About 10,000 people were evacuated from the cordoned-off city-centre.

"We are calling on shopping centres in the area to give them water, food and blankets," Lorca mayor Francisco Jodar said.

Television images showed shocked families with children gathering in squares and playgrounds, some weeping and hugging as they sought safety.

Masonry blanketed streets and a line of parked cars lay crushed under tonnes of rubble. A corpse lay in the street covered in a rescue blanket.

The tremor struck at 6:47 pm (1647 GMT) with a depth of 10 kilometres (six miles) and could be felt as far away as the capital Madrid. It hit nearly two hours after a smaller 4.4-magnitude quake.

Among the dead were a pregnant woman and two children, said regional newspaper La Verdad. One woman lost her life when a modern three-storey building collapsed, it said.

A doctor said many people had been hurt.

"I had just finished attending to a patient. We all went out into the streets and had to treat people, some with serious inuries, many unconscious, because the ambulances could not reach them. They took more than 40 minutes," the doctor, identified only as Virtudes, told the online edition of El Pais.

"They just took away a man who had a wall fall on top of him."

New-born babies were evacuated from the town's Rafael Mendez hospital for fear it could collapse, the paper said. "The stairway was totally open. The roof of the building opposite and the medical centre fell off," one of the evacuated mothers told the paper.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was informed of the disaster while he was in a meeting with King Juan Carlos, the premier's office said in a statement.

The king and prime minister then spoke to the president of the Murcia region and Zapatero immediately ordered the deployment of emergency military units to the area.

Earthquake damages were concentrated in the towns of Lorca and Totana, which lie in one of the most active seismic zones of the Iberian peninsula, but also spread as far as Albacete and Velez-Rubio in Almeria, the premier's office said.

Residents described confusion in the town of 92,700 inhabitants about 70 kilometres (45 miles) southeast of Murcia. Lorca traces its history back more than 2,000 years and boasts many medieval monuments.

"This is chaotic. All the ground is full of rubble," resident Jesus Ruiz told the paper.

"There are cracked buildings and all the ground is full of rubble and cornices. I saw them sewing up a child's head," said Ruiz, who was at work in an industrial zone when the quake struck.

Cristina Selva, 32, said she was playing with her two-year-old daughters.

"The building moved and I was was very scared for the girls. I took them and the three of us got under the table to wait for it to pass," she said.

"It was the longest 20 seconds of my life."

It was the deadliest earthquake in Spain since April 19, 1956 when a tremor wrecked buildings and killed 11 people in Albolote, a town in the southern Spanish province of Granada.

Ironically, it struck on the same day many residents stayed away from work in the Italian capital Rome fearing a supposed prophecy of a devastating tremor by a self-taught Italian seismologist who died in 1979.

- AFP /ls

Friday, May 6, 2011

6.1-magnitude quake hits Sulawesi, Indonesia

Posted: 06 May 2011 1527 hrs

JAKARTA : A 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit off the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday, government seismologists said, but there were no immediate reports of damage and no tsunami warning was issued.

The quake hit at a depth of 35 kilometres (21 miles) at 0646 GMT, around 75 kilometres southeast of Gorontalo city, said Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency.

"The quake's epicentre is on the sea but there's no tsunami potential," Indra, an agency official who uses only one name, told AFP, adding that no damage had been reported so far.

The US Geological Survey measured the quake at magnitude 5.8 and said it had a depth of 85 kilometres.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where the meeting of continental plates causes high seismic activity, and is frequently hit by earthquakes.

- AFP/al

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Strong, shallow earthquake hits eastern Indonesia

AP – 58 minutes ago

A strong and shallow earthquake hit the eastern Indonesian island of Sulawesi early Monday, officials said. There were no immediate reports of injuries, but several homes were damaged.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the preliminary magnitude of the quake at 6.2 and said it was centered 45 miles (75 kilometers) southeast of the town of Kendari at a depth of 6 miles (9 kilometers).

Residents in the town said they felt the earth shaking violently beneath their feet.

Several houses were damaged, though it was not immediately clear how badly.

Indonesia is located on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

6.9 magnitude quake hits off Solomon Islands

Posted: 23 April 2011 1307 2011 1307 hrs

The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the earthquake hit at 3:16pm (0416 GMT) at a depth of 81 kilometres and centered 171 kilometres southeast of the capital Honiara.

Residents on the mainland said they felt a sharp jolt but emergency services said there was no immediate evidence of damage although reports were still being sought from outlying islands.

The Solomons lie in the "Pacific ring of fire", a highly active earthquake zone, and regularly experiences strong tremors.

- AFP/fa

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

6.6-quake hits off New Zealand

Posted: 18 April 2011 2207 hrs

WELLINGTON: A strong 6.6-magnitude undersea earthquake hit off the northeast coast of New Zealand on Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued a local tsunami warning but said there was no threat of a widespread destructive tsunami.

The quake struck at 1:03 am (1303 Monday GMT) around 550 kilometres (350 miles) east of Auckland, USGS said, with an epicentre 90 kilometres (55 miles) below the surface.

USGS had earlier measured the magnitude at 6.4.

The epicentre lay southwest of the Kermadec Islands, which lie around 1,000 kilometres northeast of New Zealand.

New Zealand sits on the so-called Pacific "ring of fire", a zone of frequent tectonic activity, and is often hit by earthquakes.

The country's second-largest city Christchurch was devastated by a 6.3-magnitude quake in February, which claimed 181 lives and followed a more powerful but less destructive 7.1 quake last September.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rare quake rocks Australia's Barrier Reef coast

Posted: 16 April 2011 1540 hrs

SYDNEY: Australia's Barrier Reef district was rocked by an unusual 5.2-magnitude earthquake Saturday, but laid-back locals said they had barely felt a thing.

The tremor struck about 3.30pm local time (0530 GMT) about 124 kilometres southeast of Townsville at a depth of 10 kilometres, according to the United States Geological Survey.

A low rumbling was felt at Magnetic Island, a 20-minute ferry ride from the mainland and part of the Great Barrier Reef, according to a hotelier at the All Seasons resort, where it briefly interrupted a wedding on the beach.

"Some of the guests felt a bit of a shake, nothing much. It wasn't major, no-one fell over and nothing was damaged," she said.

"It was just like a shudder, my office backs onto the laundry and I said 'Oh, that was a big spin cycle.' It hasn't stopped the world up here.

"We are alive and well at the moment and please God that's how we are going to stay."

There were no immediate reports of damage and no tsunami alert was issued.

In Townsville, a tropical city renowned for its easygoing lifestyle, residents said they hadn't felt a thing.

"Look, we're pretty laid-back around here and it'd take something more than that to shake us up!" a publican at the local Molly Malone's Irish Bar told AFP.

"As far as I know there's been no sign of anything like that, no vibrations or nothing. Is this a practical joke?"

Australia rarely experiences earthquakes, its land mass being some distance from the boundary of the Indo-Australian tectonic plate.


Big aftershock rocks N. Zealand's quake-hit Christchurch

Posted: 16 April 2011 1508 hrs

WELLINGTON: A strong 5.2-magnitude aftershock rocked the quake-shattered New Zealand city of Christchurch Saturday and cut power to several areas, but there were no immediate reports of damage, officials said.

New Zealand's second largest city remains devastated following a 6.3-magnitude earthquake in February which claimed 181 lives, and followed a stronger, but less destructive 7.1 quake last September.

The latest tremor hit at 5:49pm (0549GMT) and was centred 16 kilometres (10 miles) west of the city at a depth of nine kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

Power was cut in several areas of the city, but Roger Sutton, chief executive of power company Orion, said this was because the substations had automatically shut down when the quake hit.

He said that electricity supplies would be restored within an hour as soon as checks were carried out.


Strong quake shakes buildings in Tokyo

Posted: 16 April 2011 1139 hrs

TOKYO: A strong earthquake of magnitude 5.8 hit central Japan on Saturday morning, the US Geological Survey said Saturday.

The quake, which shook buildings in Tokyo, struck at 11:19 am (0219 GMT), 83 kilometres (52 miles) north of the capital and at a depth of 20 kilometres, the USGS said.

Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said the tremor did not disrupt the emergency crews who are working around the clock to cool crippled reactors at a nuclear plant hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami last month.

That earthquake -- the biggest ever recorded in Japan -- struck on March 11, triggering a huge tsunami and leaving 13,591 people dead, with another 14,497 still unaccounted for.

Tens of thousands of people lost their homes, while many others were forced to evacuate after a series of explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant sent radiation spewing into the air.

The radiation leaks have resulted in bans on produce from the affected area and hurt the fishing and farming industries because of public fears over
radioactivity in food.

On Friday, Japan's government ordered TEPCO to offer payouts to tens of thousands of people made homeless by the ongoing crisis.

The total cost from collapsed or damaged houses, factories and infrastructure such as roads and bridges is estimated to reach 16-25 trillion yen over the next three fiscal years, according to the Cabinet Office.

There were no immediate reports of any damage or casualties from Saturday's quake, which the Japan Meteorological Agency said had a magnitude of 5.9 and struck at a depth of 70 kilometres underground.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Strong earthquake rocks Tokyo

Posted: 12 April 2011 0723 hrs

TOKYO: A strong offshore earthquake rocked Tokyo on Tuesday, swaying buildings in the Japanese capital and stopping subway services.

The US Geological Agency put the magnitude at 6.4, at a depth of 13.1 kilometres (8.1 miles), 77 kilometres east of Tokyo. The Japan Meteorological Agency had measured it at 6.3.

The quake hit at 8:08 am (2308 GMT Monday) off the coast of Chiba prefecture, just east of the capital. Japanese experts said there was no chance of a tsunami.

There were no immediate reports of fresh damage, including at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which has been releasing dangerous radioactive materials since it was damaged by the March 11 tsunami, Tokyo Electric Power Co. Said.

Subway services in Tokyo temporarily stopped, but resumed operations shortly afterwards.

The runways of Narita international airport in the prefecture were temporarily closed for checks but had since reopened, Kyodo News said.

The limited shinkansen bullet train services running to the northern region since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami were briefly interrupted.

The latest quake was an aftershock "in a broad sense of the word" of the 9.0-magnitude quake of March 11 that killed more than 13,000 and left over 13,500 missing, Koshun Yamaoka, professor at Nagoya University, told public broadcaster NHK.

"We have to be aware of aftershocks, particularly in the first and second months after the original quake," he said.

Japan has experienced more than 400 aftershocks stronger than magnitude 5.0 since March 11.

- AFP/de/ac

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Powerful quake hits Japan, tsunami alert: TV

Posted: 07 April 2011 2258 hrs

TOKYO - A powerful earthquake hit northeastern Japan late Thursday, prompting a tsunami alert to be issued, according to a TV report.

The quake, which hit at 11:32 pm local time (1432 GMT), had a magnitude of 7.4, according to the US Geological Survey, which said it struck 66 kilometres (40 miles) east of Sendai.

Mexico hit by earthquake

Posted: 07 April 2011 2151 hrs

MEXICO CITY : An earthquake measuring 6.5 struck southern and central Mexico on Thursday, but there were no initial reports of damage or casualties, Mexican and US officials said.

The tremor was strong enough to shake buildings and restaurants hundreds of miles away in the capital Mexico City, residents said.

US experts said the quake hit the Veracruz region at 8:11 am (1311 GMT) some 57 kilometres (35 miles) from the city of Las Choapas. It was 167 kilometres (101 miles) deep.

The US Geological Survey measured the quake at 6.5 on the moment magnitude scale, and said the epicentre was almost 600 kilometres (370 miles) east of the capital.

No warning of a destructive tsunami was generated, the Pacific Tsunami Warning centre said in a statement.

The quake was especially felt in the southern state of Chiapas, which borders on Guatemala, an AFP correspondent reported.

In Mexico City - where memories of the magnitude 8.1 quake of September 19, 1985 that killed between 10,000 and 30,000 people remain fresh - restaurants and school buildings quickly emptied out.

"It was a strong one, and we have activated all the monitoring systems but have had no reports of damage or victims," said Elias Miguel Moreno, in charge of the Civil Protection office for Mexico City.

In Xalapa, the capital city of Veracruz, where earthquakes are not common, many people ran out into the streets, but there no early reports of damage or any injuries.

Thursday's quake is the strongest recorded so far this year in Mexico.

In October, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit the northwestern state of Baja California Sur, but caused only minor damage.

And in April 2010, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake killed two people and damaged thousands of homes in Baja California close to the US border.

- AFP/ms

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Earthquake strikes south Java

CILACAP, Indonesia: Hundreds of residents fled an Indonesian port town for higher ground on Monday when an earthquake struck south of Java with a magnitude estimated by US seismologists at 6.7.
Posted: 04 April 2011 0445 hrs

The epicentre in the Indian Ocean was 24 kilometres (15 miles) miles deep, the US Geological Survey said, after initially estimating it at 10 kilometres underground, and 277 kilometres south of the Javanese coast.

Indonesian seismologists put the magnitude at 7.1 and issued a tsunami warning, saying the tremor had the potential to cause a killer wave and asking recipients of its public alert SMS to warn others of the danger.

The warning was later cancelled.

When the quake struck hundreds of residents in the seaport town of Cilacap fled inland and to higher ground by motorbike, car and on foot, an AFP reporter said.

"They were all panicking and shouting 'quake, quake'," the reporter said.

Suharjono, the technical head of Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, said shaking from the tremor had been felt in Pangandaran and Cilacap districts in Java.

"This quake roused people from their sleep," he said. "We have not received any reports of damage or casualties so far."

The US Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre had said that there was no risk of a widespread destructive wave, but there was a "very small possibility of a local tsunami".

The earthquake epicentre was 241 kilometres from the remote Australian territory of Christmas Island, and seismologists said the tremor was felt there, but no tsunami warning alert was issued for Australia.

"We had reports from there that they felt it," Geoscience Australia seismologist David Jepson told AFP, adding that it was described as a "moderate type quake".

Geoscience Australia put the quake at 6.7 magnitude.


Friday, March 25, 2011

At least 75 killed in Myanmar quake

Posted: 25 March 2011 1242 hrs

YANGON : At least 75 people were killed and hundreds left homeless on Friday after a strong earthquake hit Myanmar, with fears that the death toll could rise significantly.

Buildings were flattened close to the epicentre while terrified residents fled their homes as tremors were felt as far away as Bangkok, Hanoi and parts of China when the magnitude 6.8 quake hit late on Thursday.

Myanmar state television confirmed a toll of 74 dead and 111 injured.

Nearly 400 homes collapsed in four villages and towns close to the epicentre, the broadcaster said, with nine government offices also destroyed in badly-hit Tarlay town. Several monasteries were also smashed.

Across the border, Thai authorities said a 52-year-old woman was killed in Mae Sai district after a wall in her house collapsed. Sixteen people, including seven Myanmar and five Chinese nationals, were hurt in the quake.

In Yangon Chris Herink, Myanmar country director for the charity World Vision, said there were reports that the number of people killed had increased.

"The latest unconfirmed number is 140 so it is a worrying trend definitely," he said.

Explaining the high death toll in Myanmar, he said "it's the time of day combined with the severity of the quake and also obviously the construction standards of the homes".

Tarlay, where the hospital collapsed during the quake, was the worst affected township, according to teams in the area.

"As we go further into these areas we see collapsed houses, broken roads, destroyed monasteries and government buildings," he said.

World Vision helps care for around 7,000 children sponsored by overseas donors in the affected areas and the organisation is seeking out those youngsters as a priority.

The charity was able to distribute 1,500 litres of water and food for 1,350 people and Herink said the government had successfully activated its emergency response plans.

A Myanmar official told AFP earlier that "the military, police and local authorities are trying to find some people injured in those affected areas but the roads are still closed".

In Myanmar's fledgling parliament, formed after controversial elections in November last year, legislators put forward a proposal for official condolences to those killed in the quake.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) issued a report on the situation on Friday.

It said the "risk of landslides remains high" in affected areas and said it had received reports of "sporadic disruption of basic facilities, including electricity, water supply, telecommunications".

Ben Phillips, of Save the Children in Bangkok, said the organisation was trying to assess the situation in Myanmar.

"This is harder as the area affected is more remote. Whilst remoteness may limit the earthquake's impact it also makes it harder to get all the information on impact quickly. It may take days," he said.

Aftershocks continued into Friday following the earthquake.

Residents in Chiang Rai city in northern Thailand raced from their homes again in the morning as a large tremor shook the ground.

Four pagodas in the historic town of Chiang Saen near the northern Thai border were damaged, including Chedi Luang, where its three-metre (10-foot) long pinnacle crashed to the ground.

Over 6,000 people were left "stricken" after the earthquake in China's rugged Xishuangbanna border region, but there were no fatalities as of late Thursday night, according to the country's Civil Affairs Ministry.

Some residents of the Vietnamese capital Hanoi fled their homes when the quake shook the city, but there were no reported casualties.

Nguyen Thai Son, of the national Global Geophysics Institute's office in northwestern Dien Bien town, 350 kilometres from the epicentre, said "there was big panic among the local residents" but there was no serious damage.

The quake comes two weeks after Japan was hit by an earthquake and tsunami that left around 27,000 people dead or missing and triggered a crisis at its Fukushima nuclear plant.

Myanmar and Japan sit on different tectonic plates, separated by the vast Eurasian plate.

No tsunami warning was issued after the Myanmar quake as US seismologists said it was too far inland to generate a devastating wave in the Indian Ocean.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) initially recorded the quake as magnitude 7.0, but later revised it down to 6.8.

- AFP/ac/ms

Sunday, March 20, 2011

5.5-quake strikes off Taiwan

Posted: 20 March 2011 1801 hrs

TAIPEI : A 5.5-magnitude earthquake struck off Taiwan on Sunday shaking buildings in the capital, seismologists said, but there were no reports of damage and a tsunami warning was not issued.

The undersea quake hit at 16:00 local time (0800 GMT) about 44 kilometres (26 miles) southeast of Taitung city in the southeast, at a relatively shallow depth of 17 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

Taiwan's Seismology Centre measured the quake at 5.9-magnitude.

Buildings in the Taipei swayed and the quake was felt across the island, but the National Fire Agency said there were no casualties or damage.

Taiwan is regularly hit by earthquakes as the island lies near the junction of two tectonic plates.

In September 1999, a 7.6-magnitude tremor killed around 2,400 people in the deadliest natural disaster in the island's recent history.

- AFP/ms

Quake hits off Philippine coast

Posted: 20 March 2011 1727 hrs

MANILA : A 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit off the northern coast of the Philippines on Sunday, local seismologists said, but there were no immediate reports of any damage or casualties.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said there was no immediate tsunami alert, but said it was continuing to monitor northern areas.

The quake was located 117 kilometres (70 miles) northeast of Laoag city in Luzon island at a depth of 50 kilometres, the institute said.

The United States Geological Survey recorded the quake as magnitude 6.0, and said it struck at a depth of 36 kilometres.

- AFP/ms

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Strong quake shakes Tokyo region

TOKYO - A strong quake was felt late Tuesday in Tokyo, shaking buildings in Japan's capital four days after a massive tremor sparked a devastating tsunami that ravaged the country's northeast coast.

The Japan Meteorological Agency put the magnitude of the quake at 6.0.

Posted: 15 March 2011 2152 hrs

The epicentre was located in Shizuoka prefecture, about 120 kilometres southwest of the capital, and near Mount Fuji, which is prone to earthquakes.

The quake occurred at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometres.

The US Geological Survey put the magnitude at 6.1 and said it had been preceded a few minutes earlier by another 5.8-magnitude tremor. The epicentre of that aftershock was located 315 kilometres northeast of Tokyo.

- AFP/ir

Monday, March 14, 2011

Radiation leaps after Japan plant blasts, warnings for Tokyo

By Taiga Uranaka and Ki Joon Kwon | Reuters – 26 minutes ago

FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Reuters) - Japan warned radioactive levels had become "significantly" higher around a quake-stricken nuclear power plant on Tuesday after explosions at two reactors, and the French embassy said a low level radioactive wind could reach Tokyo by the evening.

Naoto Kan urged people within 30 km (18 miles) of the facility north of Tokyo to remain indoors, underscoring the dramatic worsening of Japan's nuclear crisis, the world's most serious since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986.

As concern about the crippling economic impact of the nuclear and earthquake disasters mounted, Japanese stocks plunged 13 percent - heading for their biggest drop since 1987 -- compounding a slide of 7.6 percent the day before. The two-day fall has wiped $720 billion off the market.

In a sign of mounting fears about the risk of harmful radiation, Air China said it had cancelled flights from Beijing and Shanghai to Tokyo, but there was no sign that people were rushing en masse to the capital's airports to leave.

"There has been a fire at the No. 4 reactor and radiation levels in the surrounding area have heightened significantly. The possibility of further radioactive leakage is heightening," a grim-faced Kan said in an address to the nation.

"We are making every effort to prevent the leak from spreading. I know that people are very worried but I would like to ask you to act calmly."

The French embassy in Tokyo warned in an 0100 GMT advisory that a low level of radioactive wind could reach the capital -- 240 km (150 miles) south of the plant -- in about 10 hours.

Winds over the facility are blowing slowly in a southwesterly direction that includes Tokyo but will shift westerly later on Tuesday, a weather official said.

Kyodo news agency said radiation levels nine times normal levels had been briefly detected in Kanagawa near Tokyo, but it quotes the metropolitan government that only "minute levels" were found in the capital itself.

There have been a total of four explosions at the plant since it was damaged in last Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami. The most recent were blasts at reactors No. 2 and No. 4 earlier on Tuesday.

Authorities had previously been trying to prevent meltdowns in the Fukishima Daiichi complex's nuclear reactors by flooding the chambers with sea water to cool the reactors down.


Japan graphics suite:

How a meltdown can occur

Nuclear plants, quakes zones

In Tokyo, travel agents said there had been a rise in inquiries from foreigners seeking to leave the country, but the capital's Narita airport said there had been no surge in passenger traffic.

There has been panic buying in Tokyo. Don Quixote, a multi-storey, 24-hour general store in Roppongi district, sold out of radios immediately after the quake. It also sold out of flashlights, candles, gasoline containers and sleeping bags.

The full extent of the destruction from last Friday's massive quake and tsunami that followed it was still becoming clear, as rescuers combed through the region north of Tokyo where officials say at least 10,000 people were killed.

"It's a scene from hell, absolutely nightmarish," said Patrick Fuller of the International Red Cross Federation from the northeastern coastal town of Otsuchi.

Kan has said Japan is facing its worst crisis since World War Two and, with the financial costs estimated at up to $180 billion, analysts said it could tip the world's third-biggest economy back into recession.

The U.S. Geological Survey upgraded the quake to magnitude 9.0, from 8.9, making it the world's fourth most powerful since 1900.

Car makers, shipbuilders and technology companies worldwide scrambled for supplies after the disaster shut factories in Japan and disrupted the global manufacturing chain.


The fear at the Fukushima plant is of a major radiation leak after the quake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems.

Jiji news agency said the first explosion on Tuesday damaged the roof and steam was rising from the complex. Some workers were also told to leave the plant, a development one expert had warned beforehand could signal a worsening of the crisis.

The worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 has drawn criticism that authorities were ill-prepared and revived debate in many countries about the safety of atomic power.

"You're above Three Mile Island but you're nowhere near a Chernobyl ... Chernobyl there was no impediment to release, it just blew everything out into the atmosphere," said Murray Jennex, professor at San Diego State University in California.

"You've still got a big chunk of the containment there holding most of it in."

Switzerland put on hold some approvals for nuclear power plants and Germany said it was scrapping a plan to extend the life of its nuclear power stations. The White House said U.S. President Barack Obama remained committed to nuclear energy.

Whilst the Fukuskima plant's No.1 and No.3 reactors both suffered partial fuel rod meltdowns, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) <9501.T> had earlier said the No.2 reactor was now the biggest concern.

A sudden drop in cooling water levels when a pump ran out of fuel had fully exposed the fuel rods for a time, an official said. This could lead to the rods melting down and a possible radioactive leak.

TEPCO had resumed pumping sea water into the reactor early on Tuesday.

U.S. warships and planes helping with relief efforts moved away from the coast temporarily because of low-level radiation. The U.S. Seventh Fleet described the move as precautionary.

South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines said they would test Japanese food imports for radiation.


About 850,000 households in the north were still without electricity in near-freezing weather, Tohuku Electric Power Co. said, and the government said at least 1.5 million households lack running water. Tens of thousands of people were missing.

"The situation here is just beyond belief, almost everything has been flattened," said the Red Cross's Fuller in Otsuchi, a town all-but obliterated. "The government is saying that 9,500 people, more than half of the population, could have died and I do fear the worst."

Whole villages and towns have been wiped off the map by Friday's wall of water, triggering an international humanitarian effort of epic proportions.

"When the tsunami struck, I was trying to evacuate people. I looked back, and then it was like the computer graphics scene I've seen from the movie Armageddon. I thought it was a dream . it was really like the end of the world," said Tsutomu Sato, 46, in Rikuzantakata, a town on the northeast coast.

Estimates of the economic impact now starting to emerge.

Hiromichi Shirakawa, chief economist for Japan at Credit Suisse, said in a note to clients that the economic loss will likely be around 14-15 trillion yen ($171-183 billion) just to the region hit by the quake and tsunami.

Even that would put it above the commonly accepted cost of the 1995 Kobe quake which killed 6,000 people.

The earthquake has forced many firms to suspend production and global companies -- from semiconductor makers to shipbuilders -- face disruptions to operations after the quake and tsunami destroyed vital infrastructure, damaged ports and knocked out factories.

"The earthquake could have great implications on the global economic front," said Andre Bakhos, director of market analytics at Lec Securities in New York. "If you shut down Japan, there could be a global recession."

(Additional reporting by Nathan Layne, Risa Maeda and Leika Kihara in Tokyo, Chris Meyers and Kim Kyung-hoon in Sendai, Fredrik Dahl and Michael Shields in Vienna, Noel Randewich in San Francisco and Miyoung Kim in Seoul; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Dean Yates)

Radiation leaps after Japan plant blasts, warnings for Tokyo

By Taiga Uranaka and Ki Joon Kwon | Reuters – 26 minutes ago

Japan earthquake shortened days on Earth

MB – Mon, Mar 14, 2011 4:04 PM SGT

JAPAN -- The massive earthquake that struck northeast Japan last March 11 has shortened the length Earth's day by a fraction and shifted how the planet's mass is distributed.

A new analysis of the 8.9-9.0 magnitude earthquake in Japan has found that the intense temblor has accelerated Earth's spin, shortening the length of the 24-hour day by 1.8 microseconds, according to geophysicist Richard Gross at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Gross refined his estimates of the Japan quake's impact - which previously suggested a 1.6-microsecond shortening of the day - based on new data on how much the fault that triggered the earthquake slipped to redistribute the planet's mass. A microsecond is a millionth of a second.

"By changing the distribution of the Earth's mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused the

Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds," Gross told in an e-mail. More refinements are possible as new information on the earthquake comes to light, he added.

The scenario is similar to that of a figure skater drawing her arms inward during a spin to turn faster on the ice. The closer the mass shift during an earthquake is to the equator, the more it will speed up the spinning Earth.

One Earth day is about 24 hours, or 86,400 seconds, long. Over the course of a year, its length varies by about one millisecond, or 1,000 microseconds, due to seasonal variations in the planet's mass distribution such as the seasonal shift of the jet stream.

The initial data suggests Friday's earthquake moved Japan's main island about 8 feet, according to Kenneth Hudnut of the U.S. Geological Survey. The earthquake also shifted Earth's figure axis by about 6 1/2 inches (17 centimeters), Gross added.

The Earth's figure axis is not the same as its north-south axis in space, which it spins around once every day at a speed of about 1,000 mph (1,604 kph). The figure axis is the axis around which the Earth's mass is balanced and the north-south axis by about 33 feet (10 meters).

"This shift in the position of the figure axis will cause the Earth to wobble a bit differently as it rotates, but will not cause a shift of the Earth's axis in space - only external forces like the gravitational attraction of the sun, moon, and planets can do that," Gross said.

This isn't the first time a massive earthquake has changed the length of Earth's day. Major temblors have shortened day length in the past.

The 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile last year also sped up the planet's rotation and shortened the day by 1.26 microseconds. The 9.1 Sumatra earthquake in 2004 shortened the day by 6.8 microseconds.

And the impact from Japan's 8.9-magnitude temblor may not be com¬pletely over. The weaker aftershocks may contribute tiny changes to day length as well.

The March 11 quake was the largest ever recorded in Japan and is the world's fifth largest earthquake to strike since 1900, according to the USGS. It struck offshore about 231 miles (373 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo and 80 miles (130 km) east of the city of Sendai, and created a massive tsunami that has devastated Japan's northeastern coastal areas. At least 20 aftershocks registering a 6.0 magnitude or higher have followed the main temblor.

"In theory, anything that redistributes the Earth's mass will change the Earth's rotation," Gross said. "So in principle the smaller aftershocks will also have an effect on the Earth's rotation. But since the aftershocks are smaller their effect will also be smaller." (

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami hits Japan after massive quake off Sendai

By Miwa Suzuki | AFP News – 1 hour 25 minutes ago

The strongest earthquake ever to hit Japan Friday unleashed a terrifying 10-metre tsunami that claimed hundreds of lives, with a nuclear plant and petrochemical complex among multiple sites set ablaze.

The monster wall of water generated by the 8.9-magnitude quake -- the seventh biggest in history -- pulverised the northeastern city of Sendai, where police reportedly said that 200-300 bodies had been found on the coast.

The 10-metre (33-foot) wave of black water sent shipping containers, cars and debris crashing through the streets of Sendai and across open farmland, while a tidal wave of debris-littered mud destroyed everything in its path.

More than 90 people were confirmed killed in addition to the bodies found on the Sendai coast, public broadcaster NHK reported. Related article: Pacific countries on tsunami alert

"The damage is so enormous that it will take us much time to gather data," an official at the National Police Agency told AFP.

The wave set off tsunami alerts across the Pacific, including in the US state of Hawaii. A Japanese ship with 100 people aboard was reportedly carried away while more than 300 houses were destroyed in the remote city of Ofunato.

"It was the biggest earthquake I have ever felt. I thought I would die," said Sayaka Umezawa, a 22-year-old college student who was visiting the port of Hakodate, which was hit by a two-metre wave.

The government said the tsunami and quake, which was felt in Beijing some 2,500 kilometres (1,500 miles) away, had caused "tremendous damage", while aerial footage showed massive flooding in northern towns. Related article: Quake leaves millions stranded in Tokyo

The quake, which hit at 14:46 pm (0546 GMT) and lasted about two minutes, rattled buildings in greater Tokyo, the world's largest urban area and home to some 30 million people.

In Tokyo, millions who had earlier fled swaying buildings were stranded far away from home in the evening after the earthquake shut down the capital's vast subway system. The mobile phone network was strained to breaking point.

The government used loudspeaker alerts and TV broadcasts to urge people to stay near their workplaces rather than risk a long walk home, as highways leading out of the city centre were choked and hotels rapidly filled up.

There was also major disruption to air travel and bullet train services. A passenger train with an unknown number of people aboard was unaccounted for on a line outside Sendai, Kyodo News reported. Related article: Tsunami 'carries away ship with 100 people'

The government insisted there was no risk of radiation leaking from Japan's network of advanced nuclear power plants, which are designed to shut down as soon as the earth shakes in one of the world's most quake-prone countries.

But authorities ordered 2,000 residents living by a nuclear plant in Fukushima, south of Sendai, to evacuate after a reactor cooling system failed. A fire broke out in the turbine building of another nuclear plant in Onagawa.

The tsunami also reached Sendai airport, submerging the runway while a process known as liquefaction, caused by the intense shaking of the tremor, turned parts of the ground to liquid. Related article: Tsunami-hit port 'a ghost town'

"I've never seen anything like this," said Ken Hoshi, a local government official in Ishinomaki, a port city in Miyagi prefecture, where Sendai is located.

Plumes of smoke rose from at least 10 locations in Tokyo, where four million homes suffered power outages.

Hours after the quake struck with devastating force, TV images showed huge orange balls of flame rolling up into the night sky as fires raged around a petrochemical complex in Sendai. Related article: Scenes of devastation in Japanese port city

A massive fire also engulfed an oil refinery in Iichihara near Tokyo as the quake brought huge disruption to Japan's key industries. Tokyo share prices plummeted and the yen was down against the dollar.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued a widespread warning for territories as far away as South America, New Zealand and Hawaii, where people were ordered to evacuate coastal areas.

But several countries in the tsunami's path reported only minor waves.

The first quake struck just under 400 kilometres (250 miles) northeast of Tokyo, the US Geological Survey said. It was followed by more than 40 aftershocks, one as strong as 7.1. Related article: Japan declares atomic power emergency

"We were shaken so strongly for a while that we needed to hold on to something in order not to fall," said an official at the local government of the hardest-hit city of Kurihara in Miyagi prefecture.

"We couldn't escape the building immediately because the tremors continued... City officials are now outside, collecting information on damage," she told AFP by telephone.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan quickly assembled his cabinet after the quake hit, and the government dispatched naval vessels from near Tokyo to Miyagi.

US President Barack Obama led international offers of sympathy and aid in what he called Japan's "time of great trial", while the Kan government called on help from US forces stationed in the country. Facts: The world's most powerful earthquakes

Japan sits on the "Pacific Ring of Fire", which is dotted with volcanoes, and Tokyo is in one of its most dangerous areas where three continental plates are slowly grinding against each other, building up enormous seismic pressure.

The government's Earthquake Research Committee has warned of a 70 percent chance that a great, magnitude-eight quake will strike within the next 30 years in the Kanto plains, home to Tokyo's vast urban sprawl.

The last time a "Big One" hit Tokyo was in 1923, when the Great Kanto Earthquake claimed more than 140,000 lives, many of them in fires. In 1855, the Ansei Edo quake also devastated the city.

In 1995 the Kobe earthquake killed more than 6,400 people.

More than 220,000 people were killed when a 9.1-magnitude quake hit off Indonesia in 2004, unleashing a massive tsunami that devastated coastlines in countries around the Indian Ocean as far away as Africa.

However, small quakes are felt every day somewhere in Japan and people take part in regular drills at schools and workplaces to prepare for a calamity.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

19 dead, 174 injured in China quake

Posted: 10 March 2011 1510 hrs

BEIJING : At least 19 people were killed and 174 others injured in an earthquake that struck a remote area of southwest China near the border with Myanmar on Thursday, a local official said.

The epicentre of the 5.4-magnitude quake, which struck at 12:58 pm (0458 GMT), was located about 225 kilometres (140 miles) west-southwest of Dali in Yunnan province, the US Geological Survey reported.

The quake hit at a depth of 34 kilometres, the USGS said, though Chinese seismologists put the depth at just 10 kilometres.

An official at the local earthquake relief headquarters in Yingjiang county told AFP by telephone that authorities had so far counted 19 dead and 174 injured.

State television had earlier said more than 200 were hurt.

"Many houses" collapsed in the tremor, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported, citing local authorities.

Witnesses told the news agency that parts of a supermarket and hotel had caved in, and that people were buried in the debris.

The quake triggered power outages in Yingjiang county, Xinhua said, adding that three aftershocks had been registered.

Military personnel were en route to the scene, it said.

In Myanmar, official sources said no casualties had been reported yet from the tremor.

A massive earthquake rocked the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan in May 2008, leaving nearly 87,000 people dead or missing.

- AFP/ac/ms

Strong 6.6-magnitude quake hits Papua New Guinea

Posted: 10 March 2011 0653 hrs

SYDNEY: A remote region of Papua New Guinea was rattled by a strong 6.6-magnitude earthquake on Thursday, seismologists said, but there were no reports of damage or of a tsunami.

The US Geological Survey said the tremor was centred under rugged terrain 27 kilometres northeast of the small town of Kandrian on New Britain island.

"People in the area would have felt strong shaking, but this quake occurred in an area where population density is low, it's just scattered communities," Chris McKee, of Papua New Guinea's Geophysical Observatory told AFP.

"There have been no reports of damage that we have received," said McKee, assistant director for geohazard management at the observatory.

The quake, which struck at a depth of 43 kilometres, may have been part of a sequence of powerful quakes that have been rattling the New Britain region since last year, he added.

The impoverished Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea sits on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire", a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates and quakes are frequent.

But large quakes seldom cause serious damage in the mountainous nation, which has remote and sparsely populated areas and where buildings are light and flexible and are able to bend rather than snap when a quake hits.

No tsunami was thought to have been generated by the quake, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii said.

"No destructive widespread tsunami threat exists based on historical earthquake and tsunami data," it said in a bulletin.

- AFP/de

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Japan issues tsunami warning after 7.2 quake

AFP News – Wed, Mar 9, 2011 11:06 AM SGT

Japan issued a tsunami warning Wednesday after a major 7.2-magnitude quake struck 160 kilometres (100 miles) east off the main Honshu island at 0245 GMT, swaying buildings in the capital Tokyo.

The tremor struck 10 kilometres below the sea floor, said the Japan Meteorological Agency, which issued a tsunami warning for Honshu's Pacific coast, warning of waves 50 centimetres (20 inches) high.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Deadly quake rocks New Zealand, topples buildings

Deadly quake rocks New Zealand, topples buildings

By Gyles Beckford | Reuters – 57 minutes agoWELLINGTON (Reuters) - A strong quake killed and trapped people beneath rubble and sparked fires and toppled buildings in New Zealand's second-biggest city of Christchurch on Tuesday.

It was the second quake to hit the city in five months.

Local TV showed bodies being pulled out of rubble strewn around the city centre, though it was unclear whether any of them were alive. But police reported multiple fatalities after the 6.3 magnitude quake struck during the busy lunchtime.

"I was in the square right outside the cathedral -- the whole front has fallen down and there were people running from there. There were people inside as well," said John Gurr, a camera technician who was in the city centre when the quake hit.

Authorities ordered major hospitals up and down the country to make room for quake victims but there was no word on how many might have been killed or were trapped beneath collapsed buildings. There were reports of a shortage of ambulances.

Christchurch's mayor described the city of almost 400,000 people as a war zone. Emergency crews picked through the rubble, including a multi-storey office building whose floors appeared to have pancaked on top of each other.

"A lady grabbed hold of me to stop falling over...We just got blown apart. Colombo Street, the main street, is just a mess...There's lots of water everywhere, pouring out of the ground," Gurr said.


Christchurch is built on silt, sand and gravel, with a water table beneath. In an earthquake, the water rises, mixing with the sand and turning the ground into a swamp and swallowing up sections of road and entire cars.

TV footage showed sections of road that had collapsed into a milky, sand-coloured river running right beneath the surface. One witness described the footpaths as like "walking on sand".

Unlike last year's even stronger tremor, which struck early in the morning when streets were virtually empty, the streets, shops and offices were thronged with people when the shallow tremor hit.

It hit at 12:51 pm (2351 GMT Monday) at a depth of only 4 km (2.5 miles), according to the U.S. Geological Survey's Web site.

"It's huge, it's just huge," a priest told a TV reporter outside the remains of the city's stone cathedral, part of which had been reduced to a pile of large sandstone blocks.

"I just don't know whether there are people under this rubble," he said, before he appeared to add in a quiet voice: "I think so."

Prime Minister John Key, who called an emergency cabinet meeting for later in the day, told parliament he could not rule out casualties: "We are aware of significant damage to buildings that had people in them at the time."

The quake helped knock the New Zealand dollar down to $0.7541 , 1.2 percent off late U.S. levels, on fears the damage could dent confidence

Friday, February 11, 2011

Powerful quake rocks Chile year after disaster

Posted: 12 February 2011 0512 hrs

SANTIAGO - A powerful earthquake struck Friday off the coast of Chile, throwing a scare into residents nearly a year after a massive temblor and tsunami wreaked death and destruction in the same region.

There was no initial reports of casualties or damage, but media reports said the quake was felt in a wide area of central Chile, where some residents evacuated coastal areas as a precaution.

The US Geological Survey and Chile's National Emergency Office (ONEMI) said the quake occurred in the Pacific some 70 kilometres (45 kilometres) from the city of Concepcion.

The USGS initially reported a major 7.0 magnitude, and later revised that to 6.8, which can still cause devastation.

The quake struck at 2005 GMT near a region in central Chile that was heavily damaged by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake and tsunami on February 27, 2010.

Rodrigo Ubilla, an Interior ministry official, said there were no casualties or damage to buildings reported and praised the "exemplary" reaction of the population, saying the people showed "maturity" after last year's

Last year's disaster led to more than 500 deaths and $30 billion dollars in damage, and led to an inquiry over the lack of a timely tsunami warning.

ONEMI director Vicente Nunez said "people reacted with concern," because the incident occurred near the anniversary date of the tsunami, and urged people to return to their homes.

President Sebastian Pinera visited the ONEMI headquarters late in the day to review the situation. Earlier this week, he said reconstruction from the devastation last year would extend until 2014, with many schools, roads and hospitals still needing repairs.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that "a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected," from this quake but that earthquakes of this size "sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts" within a 100 kilometers of the epicentre.

"Authorities in the region of the epicenter should be aware of this possibility and take appropriate action," it said.

A spokesman for Chile's emergency office said of the latest quake, at a depth of 14.8 kilometres, "does not have the characteristics to create a tsunami."

Chilean seismologists said it was not usual to see aftershocks from a quake as large as the one last year, even a year later.

The USGS said the location of the earthquake was 395 kilometres (245 miles) southwest of Santiago.

- AFP /ls

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Strong 6.9 quake strikes off Vanuatu

Posted: 09 January 2011 2015 hrs

SYDNEY : A strong 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck beneath the sea near the south Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, but no tsunami warning was issued, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said Sunday.

There were no immediate reports of damage from the quake, which hit at 9:03pm (1003 GMT) at a depth of 31.1 kilometres (19.3 miles), 110 kilometres from the town of Isangel on Tanna island, the USGS said.

The quake was the latest in a series of undersea tremors near the island, which is home to an active volcano.

A powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck the area on December 26, triggering a small tsunami exactly six years after giant waves killed 220,000 people around the Indian Ocean, but there were no reports of damage or casualties.

The USGS said that small tsunamis were possible after Sunday's quake in coastal locations that had experienced strong ground shaking, because of underwater landslides.

But the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that "a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected".

Vanuatu, which lies between Fiji and Australia and north of New Zealand, is in the "Pacific Ring of Fire" known for its seismic and volcanic activity caused by friction between moving plates in the Earth's crust.

- AFP /ls

Sunday, January 2, 2011

7.1 magnitude quake rocks Chile

Posted: 03 January 2011 0610 hrs

SANTIAGO: A strong earthquake shook coastal Chile Sunday, disrupting power and communications services without injuring anyone, authorities said, as tsunami fears led residents to seek higher ground.

The US Geological Survey said the 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck at 2020 GMT 69 kilometers (45 miles) northwest of Temuco, Chile, at a depth of 16 kilometers (10 miles).

Chile's National Emergency Office said the quake was "medium intensity" and struck Biobio, Maule and O'Higgins, a region in south-central Chile that was devastated by a 8.8 magnitude quake and tsunami in February 2010.

The agency's director Vicente Nunez told reporters that, on the basis of initial reports, the quake "did not cause damage or victims," although there were power outages and interruptions in telephone service.

"It's common in these types of situations for telephone services to collapse and for there to be power outages," he said.

The earthquake set off panicky reactions, with people fleeing to higher ground in Puerto Saavedra and Tirua out of fear of tsunamis, according to Chilean television.

But the Chilean Navy's Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service discounted the threat of a tsunami, saying the epicenter was on land and not at sea.

An initial report by the USGS said the quake occurred offshore, but it later revised its findings. US authorities also ruled out the threat of a Pacific-wide tsunami.

"Based on all available data, a destructive Pacific-wide tsunami is not expected," the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said in a bulletin.

"However, earthquakes of this size sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts located within a hundred kilometers (62 miles) of the earthquake epicenter," it said.

The National Emergency Office said Sunday's temblor was followed nearly two hours later by a moderate aftershock.

The earthquake was also felt in Argentina's Patagonia region, near the border with Chile, especially in San Martin de los Andes, where dozens of people ran out of the customs building fearing it might collapse, the Bariloche News Agency said.

No injuries or damage from the quake were reported in Argentina.

Chile lies on the Pacific rim of fire and is prone to violent earthquakes. Last February's massive earthquake unleashed a tsunami that swept away entire villages.

The disaster left around 520 people dead, and caused an estimated 30 billion dollars in damage.

- AFP/fa/ac

Quake hits Indonesia's Sumatra island

Posted: 03 January 2011 0024 hrs

JAKARTA: A 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck off Indonesia's Sumatra island on Sunday, the US Geological Survey said, but there was no tsunami warning.

The moderate quake struck at a shallow depth of 16 kilometres (10 miles) at 10:19 pm (1519 GMT), 122 kilometres southwest of Bengkulu, on southern Sumatra.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where the meeting of continental plates causes high seismic activity, and Sumatra is particularly prone to earthquakes.

- AFP/fa