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Death Toll on Rise from Japan Quakes
VOA News
10/24/2004



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TOKYO - At least 18 people are believed dead and more than 1400 injured from an unprecedented series of powerful earthquakes in northern Japan.
Amid strong aftershocks, which are terrifying residents, search and rescue operations are underway on the coast of the Sea of Japan.

Authorities on Sunday said tens of thousands of people in Niigata Prefecture have evacuated their homes, many spending the night outside and keeping warm in front of bonfires or portable oil heaters.

Officials in the devastated city of Ojiya, home to 40,000 people, say they are in desperate need of food, water and blankets.

Earthquake section chief Masahiro Yamamoto at the Japan Meteorological Agency says this is the first time on record that so many strong quakes occurred in such a short period of time.

Mr. Yamamoto warns that people need to be very careful during the aftershocks. He says the aftershocks worsen the danger of landslides because the ground is already unstable from Japan's latest typhoon, which killed nearly 100 people last week.

The first earthquakes on Saturday evening, the initial one measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale, are blamed for collapsing homes, damaging highways, tunnels and bridges and causing the first-ever derailment of a bullet train.

Eight cars of the high-speed train, headed from Tokyo to Niigata, derailed but no one on board was injured.

Hospitals in the worst hit communities are overflowing. Patients are being treated in reception areas, hallways and parking lots. The Japan Red Cross says it is sending nurses and other medical workers from the Tokyo area to assist.

Utilities have been knocked out in numerous towns, hindering search and recovery efforts. Meanwhile, the Self Defense Forces have been asked to send personnel into the area to help with disaster relief.

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