04/08/2011, 00.00
JAPAN
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New quake strikes devastated Japan: four dead and hundreds injured

The earthquake hit the northeastern regions of the country, the same devastated on 11 March. Water leaking from Onagawa nuclear power station, without raising the level of radiation outside the plant. Toyota will resume production April 18 to 27.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Four dead and over hundred injured: this is the provisional toll from a 7.4 quake on the Richter scale that hit the north-eastern regions of Japan last night, already devastated by the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March. The victims are a woman of 63, in Yamagata prefecture, two elderly people of 79 and 85 years in Miyagi prefecture. In the town of Tome, Miyagi prefecture, a woman of 83 died soon after admission to hospital. Some of the injured are in a serious condition.

The quake struck at 23:32 local, at a depth of 49 km, according to the American Institute of Geophysics USGS. The epicenter was located in the Pacific Ocean 66 kilometers from the city of Sendai. The tsunami warning, once issued, was lifted about an hour and a half later.

After the earthquake water leaks were reported from the Onagawa nuclear power plant in Miyagi Prefecture. The announcement was made by the company that operates the plant, the Tohoku Electric Power Co. The water is leaking from the spent fuel tanks in the two reactors and also from other parts of the installation. The levels of radiation levels, so far, are unchanged outside the plant.

At Fukushima, where the battle to bring the plant damaged by the earthquake and tsunami under control continues, staff were immediately evacuated, but no further problems were registered, and an hour and a half later the alarm ceased. The evacuation took place less than 24 hours after technicians started to pump nitrogen into the reactor No. 1, to prevent new outbreaks of the kind that occurred in the past. Operations on the plant, remote controlled, continued without interruption.

In a very worrying economic situation, the announcement that Toyota will open its auto assembly plants, starting April 18, was greeted as a positive sign. Many of these plants were damaged by the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March. "Toyota will restart production at its sites between April 18 and April 27," a company spokesman announced today.

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