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Deadly western Japan quake disrupts business

Operations suspended at several major plants in Osaka area

A collapsed road in Osaka on June 18 (Photo by Kento Awashima)

TOKYO -- A strong earthquake hit western Japan on Monday morning, killing at least three, and causing disruption to business activities across the area.

The temblor occurred in the northern part of Osaka Prefecture at 7:58 a.m. and had a preliminary magnitude of 6.1 at a depth of 13 kilometers, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The National Police Agency confirmed the deaths of a nine-year old girl and two men in their eighties. About 300 people were injured.

Osaka and a number of other cities in the region were paralyzed, with many businesses forced to suspend operations.

The Universal Studios Japan amusement park had to delay its opening time, while Hirakata Park, just north of Osaka, closed for the day. Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan also did not open as usual.

Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores closed its Daimaru Umeda outlet in the prefectural capital and its Matsuzakaya Takatsuki outlet in the city of Takatsuki on Monday.

Several manufacturers also suspended operations. Daihatsu Motor temporarily stopped work to carry out checks on equipment at its main plant in the city of Ikeda and another facility in Oyamazaki, Kyoto Prefecture.

Mitsubishi Motors temporarily suspended operations at two plants where it manufactures powertrains in Konan, Shiga Prefecture, and Kyoto. Work was also halted to check for damage at Honda Motor's factory in Suzuka in Mie Prefecture. Inspections were carried out on equipment before work could be resumed at Sharp's refrigerator factory in the Osaka Prefecture city of Yao.

Kansai Electric Power reported that no abnormalities had been identified at its nuclear power plants in Oi, Takahama and Mihama in Fukui Prefecture, or at any thermal or hydroelectric plants.

Many train services were canceled across Osaka and the surrounding prefectures, while infrastructure was affected in several parts of the region, with power and water outages being reported.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said that there was no risk of a tsunami resulting from the quake, but warned that more large-scale tremors could occur in the next two or three days.

The agency's initial estimate put the quake’s magnitude at 5.9, but it was later upgraded it to 6.1. 

On the Japanese seismic intensity scale, which runs from zero to seven, the quake was registered at the lower 6 level, the largest seismic intensity recorded in Osaka Prefecture since the agency began full-fledged observations in 1923.

A 9-year-old girl died after a wall several dozens of meters long around a swimming pool collapsed. (Photo by Kento Awashima)

According to Central Japan Railway and West Japan Railway, shinkansen bullet train services were suspended between Maibara and Shin-Osaka stations on the Tokaido Shinkansen line for equipment inspections.

Shinkansen services between Shin-Osaka and Okayama on the Sanyo Shinkansen line were also suspended until about 3 p.m. 

Many conventional train lines were forced to stop operating. Private railway operators Hankyu and Hanshin Electric Railway, as well as Osaka Metro, stopped running a number of services, causing significant disruption.

Toll road operator West Nippon Expressway closed the entire Hanshin Expressway network, which serves Osaka Prefecture and the surrounding areas, for safety checks. There have been no reports of accidents or damage, the company said.

Police and firefighters have been alerted to a number of fires and other incidents.

According to Kansai Electric Power, a total of 170,000 households in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures were left without power, with some people being reported trapped in elevators.

According to fire authorities, a residential house fire occurred in Takatsuki, and there were two fires -- one at a residential property and the other at a factory -- in the Hyogo Prefecture city of Amagasaki.

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