4 Killed, 100 Hurt in Japan’s Strongest Aftershock


A powerful aftershock that rocked an area of Japan still reeling from last month's earthquake and tsunami disaster killed four people and injured around 100, reports and emergency services said Friday.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said a 63-year-old woman in Yamagata prefecture died after her respirator failed when the power was knocked out by the 7.1 magnitude tremor.

"Her respiratory equipment was found turned off. We believe the machine was turned off due to the (power) outage," a spokesman for the agency said.

Broadcaster NHK said two men aged 79 and 85 were killed in Myagi prefecture -- the area worst hit by the 9.0 magnitude quake of March 11 and the tsunami it spawned.

The Jiji news agency said an 83-year-old woman in the same prefecture was taken to hospital immediately after the earthquake and later confirmed dead.

The disaster management agency said at least 93 people were confirmed injured as of 9:30 am (0030 GMT), while Jiji Press said about 140 were injured.

The number of households still without power was 2.62 million as of noon, said Tohoku-Electric Power, the local electricity supplier.

The Japanese Meteorological Agency immediately issued a tsunami alert, warning two-meter high waves could hit an area where much of the coastline still lies in ruins from the March 11 catastrophe.

The alert, which had sent people fleeing to higher ground, was withdrawn 83 minutes after the 11:32 pm (1432 GMT) quake, but set already frayed nerves on edge.

In the town of Kitakami, northwest of Thursday night's epicenter, an Agence France Presse reporter witnessed queues forming at convenience stores as people tried to stock up anew on food, water and batteries.

"It was so scary," said Kazuyuki Shiroiwa, who had been to four shops in central Kitakami in a vain effort to find batteries.

"The midnight quake reminded me of the fear I felt a month ago," he said. "I'm fed up with earthquakes. No more quakes, please."

Hundreds of aftershocks have rocked Japan since the 9.0 magnitude quake last month and the resulting tsunami, which killed 12,500 people and left around 15,000 unaccounted for.