Mega quake rocks Osaka

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Engineers walk at a street in Takatsuki, Osaka, Japan yesterday following a 6.1 magnitude earthquake that shook Osaka prefecture in western Japan on Monday morning. Xinhua

TOKYO (Reuters) – A magnitude 6.1 earthquake in Osaka, Japan’s second-biggest metropolis, killed four people, injured hundreds more and halted factory lines in an industrial area, government and company officials said yesterday.

Authorities were assessing the damage from Monday’s quake which injured 380 people, according to the latest government estimates.

Live footage showed toppled walls, broken windows and water gushing from burst mains after the quake hit Osaka, which will host next year’s Group of 20 summit, just before 8 am on Monday as commuters were heading to work.

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Quakes are common in Japan, part of the seismically active “Ring of Fire” that stretches from the South Pacific through Indonesia and Japan, across to Alaska and down the west coast of North, Central and South America.

The epicentre of Monday’s earthquake was just north of Osaka city at a depth of 13 km (8 miles), said the Japan Meteorological Agency. The agency originally put the magnitude at 5.9 but later raised it to 6.1.

Collapsing walls killed a 9-year-old girl as she walked to school and an 80-year-old man, the government said.

An 85-year-old man died when a bookcase fell on him and an 81-year-old woman was found dead under a toppled dresser.

The quake struck a key industrial area of central Japan.

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Trade minister Hiroshige Seko said the quake had forced factories to halt operations but there was no information on the damage to facilities.

Honda Motor Co. and Mitsubishi Motors said they were resuming operations after suspensions and safety checks. Sharp Corp also restarted work at a joint venture plant with parent Hon Hai Precision Industry that it had stopped for safety checks.

Tourists spoke of the panic when the earthquake struck.

“We were sleeping and it woke us up abruptly,” said Kate Kilpatrick, a teenage American who was staying at a Osaka hotel.

Most trains in the area had resumed service yesterday, Osaka police said.

Osaka prefecture, which includes the city and surrounding areas, is home to 8.8 million people. The city is close to Kobe, which was hit by a deadly magnitude 6.9 quake in 1995.

A massive 9.0 quake struck further north in March 2011, triggering a huge tsunami that killed some 18,000 people and the world’s worst nuclear disaster in a quarter of a century at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Japan introduced a law after the Kobe quake requiring owners of large buildings such as hotels and hospitals to have their buildings inspected for earthquake resistance.

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