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Learning English - Words in the News
16 July, 2007 - Published 10:13 GMT
Japan hit by earthquake
Earthquake damage

An earthquake has struck north-western Japan. The national broadcaster NHK reported that hundreds of buildings in the Niigata area had been destroyed. More than two-hundred-and-sixty people were injured and two were killed. This report from Keith Adams:

Listen to the story

The earthquake, which measured six-point-eight on the Richter Scale, hit Japan's north west coast on Monday morning. In the city of Kashiwazaki, residents described being violently shaken. Officials there say 2,000 people were evacuated from their homes. The city's modern buildings, as elsewhere in the earthquake-prone country, are built to withstand tremors, but the older, mostly timber buildings were reduced to rubble.

Of most concern though, was the damage to the Kashiwazaki nuclear power station. But Yasuhisa Shiozaki, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, said there was no immediate danger.

"At the nuclear power plant, the third, fourth and fifth reactors automatically shut down. There is a fire at the transformer building outside the main reactors, but we have confirmed that there was no nuclear leak."

As aftershocks continued to hit, the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced he'd cancel election campaigning in southern Japan and head to the area. Richard Lloyd Parry, a journalist for The Times, told the BBC he clearly felt the earthquake in Tokyo, some 250 kilometres away.

"I'm on the third floor of a concrete building, and it was like being on a ship at sea for about forty seconds or so, and the utility poles, the wires outside the window were all shaking. Over in Niigata prefecture, and especially in Kashiwazaki where most of the damage occurred, it must have been really something, I mean, people there say they couldn't stand up, it was like being on a storm-tossed boat."

Japan sits on four tectonic plates and is well prepared against its frequent earthquakes. An earthquake in Kobe in 1995 killed more than 6,000 people. The last major quake in Tokyo hit in 1923 and killed 142,000.

Keith Adams, BBC

Listen to the words

the Richter Scale
the offical scientific measurement of how strong an earthquake is

evacuated from their homes
told to leave their houses for safety

the earthquake-prone country
Japan, a country which because of its geographical position has many earthquakes



reduced to rubble
completely destroyed

small earthquakes that often follow a main earthquake

election campaigning
the process before an election when the candidates try to persuade people to vote for them

a storm-tossed boat
a boat that is bouncing up and down in the sea because of a storm

tectonic plates
parts of the structure of the planet, their movement can cause earthquakes

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