Strong quake strikes Japanese city


At least three people - a 9-year-old girl and two men in their 80s - were killed in Japan after a strong quake shook the city of Osaka on Monday morning, setting off building fires, toppled concrete walls and cracked roads and water pipes.

The 6.1 magnitude quake did not trigger a tsunami warning and nuclear plants in the area are operating normally.

Television images showed buildings swaying and burst pipes spewing water after the quake, which struck at the height of rush hour in the city of around two million people. The Japan Meteorology Agency put the magnitude at 5.9 and JMA Seismic Intensity at 5.3.

A nine-year-old girl was killed after becoming trapped by a damaged wall in a swimming pool facility at her school in Takatsuki city, north of Osaka city.

A falling concrete wall knocked down Rina Miyake as she walked by at her elementary school in Takatsuki.

Many homes and buildings, including a major hospital, were temporarily without power, though electricity was restored at most places by mid afternoon.

A strong quake hit western Japan early June 18, but there were no immediate reports of major damage or risk of tsunami waves, officials said.

Power outages have been reported as well as light damage to a few train stations, . causing some services to be halted. An 84-year-old man in nearby Ibaraki died when a bookshelf fell on him at home, city officials say.

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The strongest shaking was north of Osaka, the agency said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters the government was "working united, with its first priority on saving people's lives".

The quake struck at 8:00 am, as platforms would have been heaving with passengers waiting to board their commuter trains to work.

The operation of bullet trains running through the prefecture was suspended following the quake but service was resumed shortly afterward after no safety problems were detected.

The Meteorological Agency warned, however, that aftershocks could be felt over the next two to three days. Vehicle makers Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota and Daihatsu all stopped production at plants in the region.

The vehicle manufacturer Daihatsu said it had suspended operations at its plants in Osaka and nearby Kyoto, while the consumer electronics firm Sharp said its factories were operating normally.

Japan sits on the so-called Ring of Fire, one of the most active seismic zones in the world, and experiences earthquakes frequently, which is why most infrastructure is specially created to withstand earthquakes. Centered inland from the port city, the natural disaster did not cause a tsunami.

It also sent three reactors into meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing Japan's worst postwar disaster and the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.