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.