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Northern Japan hit by new powerful quake
Updated: 2004-12-07 09:50

Japan's main northern island of Hokkaido was jolted by a new powerful earthquake registering 6.9 on the Richter scale, lightly injuring four people, days after a tremor of similar magnitude.

The quake struck a relatively deep 46 kilometers (28 miles) below sea level in the ocean just east of the island's tip, the Japan Meteorological Agency said in revised measurements.

The agency issued a warning for tsunami tidal waves which it called off 40 minutes later at 11:55 pm (1455 GMT).

Two men, a nine-year-old boy and a 77-year-old woman suffered minor injuries from the impact felt in towns in Hokkaido, Kyodo News agency reported, quoting local rescue and hospital authorities.

Train services were temporarily called off as inspectors looked to see if the rail lines sustained any damage, Kyodo News said.

An earthquake of 7.1 on the Richter scale hit Hokkaido on November 29, injuring 17 people in a new sign of seismic activity in tremor-prone Japan.

On October 23, the central region of Niigata was rocked by a temblor registering 6.8 on the Richter scale followed by hundreds of aftershocks, killing 40 people in Japan's deadliest quake in a decade.

The Niigata quake caused so much devastation because it struck a shallow 13 kilometers (nine miles) under the surface near population centers.

Next month marks the 10th anniversary of the earthquake in the western city of Kobe, which killed 6,433 people and prompted Japan to re-examine the way it conducts relief operations for major disasters.

Experts said Japan had a quicker response time after the Niigata quake, with relief supplies expedited and temporary shelters set up.

Tokyo, which felt the impact of the Niigata quake, has set up a computer program that will automatically identify areas to halt trains and vehicular traffic in the event of any tremor of 4.0 on the Richter scale or higher.

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