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M6.6 quake hits western Japan, 20 people injured

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 struck Tottori and other areas of western Japan on Friday afternoon, injuring 20 people, causing temporary power outages and damaging buildings.

The injuries were reported in Tottori, Okayama and three other prefectures following the 2:07 quake, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency and prefectural governments said. Two houses were also flattened in Tottori and about 2,980 residents evacuated from their homes, according to local officials.

No tsunami warning was issued and no abnormalities were reported at nuclear power plants in the region.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told government offices to work closely with local municipalities to rescue disaster victims and provide accurate information to the public.

The quake registered lower 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in Kurayoshi, Yurihama and Hokuei in Tottori Prefecture, and upper 5 in a wide area of Tottori and Okayama prefectures, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

It was the first major temblor to hit the region on the Sea of Japan coast since a magnitude-7.3 quake in 2000, which left some 180 people injured.

The agency said the quake originated in central Tottori Prefecture at a depth of around 11 kilometers, revising the earlier-announced 10 km.

It warned that the area that logged strong earthquakes could experience quakes with a magnitude of up to lower 6 in the next week or so.

The prefecture and its vicinity were struck by a series of quakes Friday before and after the major quake.

According to the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience, the peak ground acceleration recorded in Kurayoshi nearly matched that of a powerful quake in April in Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan, which caused extensive damage.

Around 77,000 households in Tottori and Okayama prefectures were temporarily without electricity but power was fully restored by around 5:40 p.m., according to Chugoku Electric Power Co.

Many buildings, including public facilities and shops, were damaged by the temblors. Almost all the windows of the main building of the Kurayoshi city government hall were broken.

West Japan Railway Co. said it was forced to temporarily suspend operation of shinkansen bullet trains between Shin-Osaka and Hakata. Okayama Airport located south of Tottori temporarily closed its runway.

Japan Display Inc., a supplier of smartphone and tablet computer display panels, said it had suspended operation of some of its production lines at its Tottori plant.

No abnormalities were detected at the Shimane nuclear plant, which is currently offline, in nearby Shimane Prefecture, according to Chugoku Electric.

Shikoku Electric Power Co. said it had detected no abnormalities at the No. 3 reactor of the Ikata nuclear plant that has been in operation since August in Ehime Prefecture, where the quake registered up to 4 on the intensity scale.

There were also no abnormalities at the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture, east of Tottori, according to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

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