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The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"The shockwaves rocked the city"
 real 56k

Dr.Roger Musson, Seismologist
"None of this comes as a surprise"
 real 28k

Saturday, 24 March, 2001, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Earthquake hits western Japan
A road in central Hiroshima city caved in during the quake
Roads and building facilities were damaged in Hiroshima
A strong earthquake measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale has struck a wide area in western Japan, killing at least two people and injuring dozens.

Hiroshima fire department officials said an 80-year-old woman was crushed to death when her house collapsed.

Police in the neighbouring prefecture of Ehime said another woman died after being hit by a falling balcony when she was fleeing her home.

Map of Japan
The quake, which had its epicentre off the coast of Hiroshima, struck at 0328 local time (0628), according to the meteorological agency.

But the agency said there was no danger of a tsunami, or tidal wave.

Fire department officials said at least four houses had caught fire after the quake, and many people were still trapped in lifts.

More than 60 people have been reported injured, and one of them is believed to be in a critical condition.

Windows were shattered as buildings swayed violently with the tremor.

A shop sign and debris from a wall lie on the ground after the earthquake
Windows were shattered, roof tiles and shop signs fell
The city's trains were stopped and telephone services interrupted briefly.

"The shaking was so strong. Roof tiles flew away. Mirrors and glasses were all broken," Hiroshima resident Hisako Ishii told AFP news agency.

A police spokesman in neighbouring Tottori prefecture said the quake had been felt for about 20 seconds, but there were no reports of injuries or damage to buildings.

Saturday's earthquake comes a day after one registering 5.8 on the Richter scale hit northern Japan.

Japan is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries.

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See also:

28 Feb 01 | World
Deadly history of earthquakes
05 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
The Earth's Ring of Fire
17 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
Japan recalls quake disaster
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