A strong earthquake rocked Japan’s western coast today, killing at least two people and injuring more than 320 as it destroyed dozens of wooden buildings.
An official at Kashiwazaki Central Hospital confirmed the deaths of two women. National broadcaster NHK said the victims, in their 80s, had been buried in rubble. Kyodo News agency said injuries to others included broken bones, cuts and bruises. A media report of two additional deaths was not immediately confirmed.
Flames and black smoke were seen pouring from a nuclear plant in hard-hit Kashiwazaki city. NHK reported that the fire came from an electrical transformer and that no radioactivity was released. The reactor and two others automatically shut down when the quake hit.
The quake, centered off the coast of Niigata prefecture, had a magnitude of 6.7, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. A series of smaller aftershocks rattled the area.
Abut 2,000 people in Kashiwazaki were evacuated from their homes, city official Takashi Otsuka said.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency issued tsunami warnings along the coasts of Niigata and warned of small tsunamis elsewhere. But the warnings were later lifted. Tsunamis as high as 20 inches were believed to have reached land.
Several bullet train services linking Tokyo to northern Japan were suspended, NHK said. Some seaside roads and bridges buckled.