Japan clears restart at nuclear reactor closest to epicenter of 2011 quake

By Aaron Sheldrick and Yuka Obayashi

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s Tohoku Electric Power said on Wednesday it has won initial regulatory approval to restart a reactor at its Onagawa power plant, more than 8 years after it was damaged in the earthquake and tsunami that caused the Fukushima disaster.

Tohoku Electric said in a statement it has received a first green light from Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority to restart the No. 2 reactor at Onagawa, subject to a public consultation period.

Onagawa was the closest among Japan’s nuclear stations to the epicenter of the magnitude-9 quake in March 2011, which triggered a tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people, as well as causing the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The station was swamped by the tsunami, but survived with its cooling system intact, saving its reactors from the threat of meltdowns similar to those that occurred at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi station to the south.

Further approvals will be required before the restart, along with the consent of local authorities, which is not guaranteed.

The reactor is a boiling water reactor (BWR) with the same basic design as those that melted down in the Fukushima crisis.

Tohoku Electric expects to spend 340 billion yen ($3.1 billion) on safety upgrades at the Onagawa plant, including for a wall stretching 800 meters (2,625-ft) in length and standing as tall as 29 meters above sea level to protect it from tsunamis.

Restarting the No. 2 reactor will save the utility 35 billion yen each year in fuel costs, he said.

The Fukushima disaster led to the eventual shutdown of the country’s then-54 operational reactors, which once provided nearly a third of Japan’s electricity. All had to be relicensed under new standards after the disaster highlighted operational and regulatory failings.

While the approval will be a boost for Japan’s resurgent nuclear industry, the sector will still miss a government target of providing at least a fifth of the country’s electricity by 2030, an analysis by Reuters showed last year.

Nine reactors have been restarted, all of them pressurized water reactors located far from Tokyo, while the stigma of Fukushima still hangs over use of the older BWR technology.

The issue of nuclear safety in Japan was highlighted again earlier this week when Pope Francis – who met victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster while in Japan over the weekend – said nuclear energy should not be used until there are ironclad guarantees that it is safe for people and the environment.


(Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick and Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)

Indonesia issues tsunami alert after powerful quake causes panic

Indonesia issues tsunami alert after powerful quake causes panic
JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia issued a tsunami alert on Thursday after a powerful earthquake struck in the sea near the Moluccas, prompting panicked islanders to flee to higher ground, according to residents and a media report.

The quake had a magnitude of 7.1 and struck 139 km (86 miles) northwest of the city of Ternate at a depth of 45 km, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Earlier, the agency put the magnitude at 7.4.

“Most likely it (a tsunami) won’t hit the land, but we still need to be on alert,” Rahmat Triyono, an official at Indonesia’s geophysics agency, told Kompas TV. He said there had been no reports of damage so far.

The quake was also felt strongly on the island of Sulawesi, to the west of the epicenter.

Indah Lengkong, a resident of port city of Bitung in North Sulawesi, said by text message: “The house was visibly shaking.”

People in her neighborhood had initially panicked, she said, adding: “The quake was very strong and lasted for a while. We can still feel tremors but weaker.”

Twitter user @inritaehyungie, who lives in Tondano in North Sulawesi, also felt the quake strongly.

“The earth was literally shaking so hard,” she said.

Metro TV said some residents had fled to higher ground in the North Moluccas.

(Reporting by Jakarta bureau; Writing by David Evans and Ed Davies; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Rescuers race to find survivors after Philippine earthquake kills 16

Rescuers are seen at a collapsed four-storey building following an earthquake in Porac town, Pampanga province, Philippines, April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

By Peter Blaza and Eloisa Lopez

PORAC, Philippines (Reuters) – Rescue teams in the Philippines searched for signs of life beneath the tangled debris from a collapsed four-storey commercial building on Tuesday after a strong earthquake shook the country’s biggest island, killing at least 16 people.

Heavy equipment and search dogs were used as dozens of firefighters, military and civilian rescuers shifted through mangled metal and lumps of concrete in Porac, a town 110 km (68 miles) north of Manila, where 12 people were killed by a 6.1 magnitude earthquake that struck on Monday.

Two people were rescued and carried out on stretchers on Tuesday, adding to seven found alive and four found dead overnight after higher levels caved in on a ground-floor supermarket in Porac, killing five people. Seven were killed elsewhere in the town.

Another, stronger earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 struck in Samar island in the central Philippines on Tuesday afternoon, but there were no reports of injuries or major damage.

The national disaster agency said the Monday earthquake injured 81 people and damaged 29 buildings across Luzon island, with 14 people reported missing.

An investigation was underway into why the supermarket building collapsed so easily when most structures suffered only superficial damage from a quake that officials said was the biggest the town had ever felt.

Debris and rubble are pictured inside the Santa Catalina de Alejandria Parish after an earthquake the day before in Porac town, Pampanga province, Philippines, April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

“We’re not sure how many people are trapped still,” Porac mayor Condralito dela Cruz told news channel ANC.

“We can still hear some voices, the voice of a woman.

The Philippines is prone to natural disasters and is located on the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a horse shoe-shaped band of volcanoes and fault lines that arcs round the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

Aurelia Daeng, 65, was in her family drug store in Porac when Monday’s quake struck, breaking windows, cracking the floor and destroying one wall of her home.

“It was very strong. It was our first time experiencing something like that,” she said.

“This one, it’s terrifying.”

The earthquake was felt strongly in business areas of Manila, with residential and office buildings evacuated after being shaken for several minutes.

Train services were halted and roads and sidewalks were clogged by the sudden exodus of workers.

One corner of a 17th century church in Pampanga partially collapsed and the province’s international airport in Clark was closed for repairs. It was expected to reopen on Thursday at the latest, the transport minister said, adding there was no damage to the runway or control tower.

The government declared Tuesday a holiday for civil servants in Metro Manila to allow for safety inspections of buildings. Foreign exchange trading was suspended and a treasury bond auction canceled.

Irene Consultado, a government official, said many buildings were evacuated after Tuesday’s quake in Samar and early information indicated minor damage to infrastructure and commercial and residential properties.

(Additional reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema in MANILA; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Paul Tait, Robert Birsel)

Hundreds flee homes as 4.4 magnitude quake strikes Indonesia

Rescue workers and volunteers clear an area of debris following yesterday's 4.4 magnitude quake in Kertosari Village, Banjarnegara, Central Java, Indonesia April 19, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Idhad Zakaria / via REUTERS

JAKARTA (Reuters) – A shallow earthquake brought down hundreds of poorly built buildings in Indonesia, forcing more than 2,000 people to flee their homes, rescue officials said on Thursday. The 4.4 magnitude quake hit the Banjarnegara district of Central Java late on Wednesday, killing two people and injuring more than 20.

“Victims were killed or injured by falling buildings,” the national rescue agency said in a statement. “People are being treated in hospital or have been evacuated to temporary shelters.”

Quakes are common in Indonesia, which straddles the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a hot spot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.

(Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Major quake cuts communications, halts oil and gas operations in Papua New Guinea

A supplied image shows a landslide and damage to a road located near the township of Tabubil after an earthquake that struck Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands, February 26, 2018. Jerome Kay/Handout via REUTERS

By Charlotte Greenfield and Sonali Paul

WELLINGTON/MELBOURNE (Reuters) – At least one company began evacuating non-essential personnel after a powerful 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit Papua New Guinea’s energy-rich interior on Monday, causing landslides, damaging buildings and closing oil and gas operations.

The tremor hit in the rugged, heavily forested Southern Highlands about 560 km (350 miles) northwest of the capital, Port Moresby, at around 3.45 a.m. local time (1545 GMT Sunday), according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

A spokesman at Papua New Guinea’s National Disaster Center said by telephone the affected area was very remote and the agency could not properly assess damage until communication was re-established.

He said there were no confirmed casualties, although the International Red Cross (IRC) in Papua New Guinea said some reports indicated there were “fears of human casualties”.

“It’s a very serious all across the Southern Highlands and also all over the western highlands. People are definitely very frightened,” Udaya Regmi, the head of the IRC in Papua New Guinea, said by telephone from Port Moresby.

A supplied image shows a landslide and damage to a road located near the township of Tabubil after an earthquake that struck Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands, February 26, 2018. Jerome Kay/Handout via REUTERS

A supplied image shows a landslide and damage to a road located near the township of Tabubil after an earthquake that struck Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands, February 26, 2018. Jerome Kay/Handout via REUTERS

The PNG government also said it had sent disaster assessment teams. At least 13 aftershocks with a magnitude of 5.0 or more rattled the area throughout the day, according to USGS data, but no tsunami warnings were issued.

“The Papua New Guinea Defense Force has also been mobilized to assist with the assessment and the delivery of assistance to affected people as well as the restoration of services and infrastructure,” Isaac Lupari, the chief secretary to the government, said in a statement.

ExxonMobil said it had shut its Hides gas conditioning plant and that it believed administration buildings, living quarters and a mess hall had been damaged. It also said it had suspended flights into the nearby Komo airfield until the runway could be surveyed.

“Due to the damage to the Hides camp quarters and continuing aftershocks, ExxonMobil PNG is putting plans in place to evacuate non-essential staff,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Gas is processed at Hides and transported along a 700 km (435 miles) line that feeds a liquefied natural gas plant near Port Moresby for shipping.


PNG oil and gas explorer Oil Search said in a statement it had also shut production in the quake-affected area.

The giant Grasberg copper mine operated by the Indonesian unit of Freeport McMoRan in neighboring Papua province was not affected, a Jakarta-based spokesman said.

However, the quake and several aftershocks caused panic in Jayapura, the capital of Indonesian Papua, Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said in a statement, but there were no reports of casualties or damage there.

The IRC’s Regmi said communications were “completely down” in Tari, one of the larger settlements near the quake’s epicenter, and that landslides had cut roads.

Several other aid and missionary agencies said poor communications in the area made damage and injury assessment difficult.

“The bush structures that they build tend to handle earthquakes extremely well,” Christian missionary Brandon Buser told Reuters after contacting several remote villages by shortwave radio.

Earthquakes are common in Papua New Guinea, which sits on the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire”, a hotspot for seismic activity due to friction between tectonic plates.

“This is the Papuan fold-and-thrust belt, so it’s a typical movement of faults in that region, but it’s big,” said Chris McKee, acting director of the Geohazards Management Division in Port Moresby.

Part of PNG’s northern coast was devastated in 1998 by a tsunami, generated by a 7.0 quake, which killed about 2,200 people.

(For a graphic on ‘Papua New Guinea’s 7.5 magnitude earthquake’ click http://tmsnrt.rs/2ow1YLR)

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in WELLINGTON and Sonali Paul in MELBOURNE; Additional reporting by Fergus Jensen in JAKARTA and Tom Westbrook in SYDNEY; Writing by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Paul Tait)

Magnitude 4.1 quake strikes Delaware, equals estimated state record

(Reuters) – A magnitude 4.1 earthquake struck Delaware on Thursday in a rare seismological occurrence for the U.S. Northeast, officials said, with the temblor’s strength equaling the estimated magnitude of an 1871 quake that was believed to be the largest ever in the state.

The quake, previously reported at magnitude 5.1 and then at 4.4, was centered in the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, according to a statement from the Delaware Emergency Management Agency. It was less than 10 miles (17 km) from the city of Dover and less than a mile (0.8 km) from Donas Landing.

There were no reports of injuries or damage, officials said.

In 1871, a quake believed to have been of magnitude 4.1 struck in Delaware, according to the website for the Delaware Geological Survey, a state agency.

The 1871 quake had been the largest on record for Delaware, according to the survey, but its strength has only been estimated.

The largest quake ever recorded in Delaware was a magnitude 3.8 temblor in 1973, according to the Delaware Geological Survey.

Earthquakes in Delaware do not occur on the edge of a tectonic plate, as is more common in places such as California, where fault lines between plates generate earthquakes. Generations of California residents have been bracing for the so-called “Big One” along the San Andreas Fault.

Instead, the Delaware temblor occurred far from the edge of a plate, said Thomas Pratt, a research geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey who is based in Virginia.

“There’s a lot of speculation, but we don’t have a good answer for why these earthquakes are occurring in the middle of the plates,” Pratt said.

The latest quake was downgraded to a magnitude 4.1 after data came in from several monitoring stations, U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Rafael Abreu said by telephone.

It was felt in Philadelphia in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, some 53 miles (85 km) from the epicenter.

The quake was shallow, only 5 miles (8 km) deep, which would have amplified its effect, and some people reported feeling light shaking in areas around New York City and Baltimore, according to the USGS website.

Many social media users also confirmed feeling the temblor and #earthquake had quickly risen to the top of trending topics on Twitter with more than 11,000 tweets mentioning the hashtag.

(Reporting by Sandra Maler in Washington and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Sandra Maler and Dan Grebler)

Quake hits southeast Iran, destroys homes; no fatalities reported

Quake hits southeast Iran, destroys homes; no fatalities reported

By Parisa Hafezi

ANKARA (Reuters) – A strong earthquake of magnitude 6.0 struck southeastern Iran on Friday, injuring at least 42 people and destroying several homes in an area where most people live in villages of mud-walled homes. State media said no deaths had been reported.

Rescue workers, special teams with sniffer dogs and units of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and Basij militia forces were sent to the quake-hit areas in Kerman province, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said.

State TV said many residents rushed out of houses in Kerman city and nearby villages and towns, fearing more tremors after some 51 aftershocks following the 6:32 a.m. (0232 GMT) quake.

“The quake destroyed some houses in 14 villages but so far there has been no fatalities,” a local official told state TV. “Fortunately no deaths have been reported so far.”

The quake struck less than three weeks after a magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit villages and towns in Iran’s western Kermansheh province along the mountainous border with Iraq, killing 530 people and injuring thousands of others.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Friday’s quake, at first reported as magnitude 6.3, was centered 36 miles (58 km) northeast of Kerman city, which has a population of more than 821,000. The quake was very shallow, at a depth of 6.2 miles (10 km), which would have amplified the shaking in the poor, sparsely populated area.

Head of Relief and Rescue Organization of Iran’s Red Crescent Morteza Salimi told state television that at least 42 people were injured. Iran’s state news agency IRNA said most of those hurt had minor injuries.

“Assessment teams are surveying the earthquake-stricken areas and villages in Kerman province,” IRNA quoted local official Mohammadreza Mirsadeqi as saying.

Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency said the quake had caused heavy damage in Hojedk town and some villages were hit by power and water cuts.

State TV aired footage of damaged buildings in remote mountainous villages near Hojedk town, the epicenter of the earthquake with a population of 3,000 people. TV said coal mines in the area had been closed because of aftershocks.

Iran’s Red Crescent said emergency shelter, food and water had been sent to the quake-hit areas.

Criss-crossed by several major fault lines, Iran is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 quake in Kerman province killed 31,000 people and flattened the ancient city of Bam.

(Additional reporting by Sandra Maler in Washington; Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by William Maclean and Peter Graff)

South Korea postpones university exam after rare earthquake

By Christine Kim and Cynthia Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea postponed its annual university entrance exam by a week on Wednesday after a rare earthquake rattled the country, shaking buildings and causing damage but no deaths.

Minister of Education Kim Sang-kon said the hugely competitive exam, scheduled for Thursday, would be postponed for the first time ever because of a natural disaster. It was the country’s second-biggest earthquake on record.

“A fair amount of damage was reported,” Kim told a media briefing.

“Due to the continued aftershocks, we are seeing many citizens, including students, unable to return home.”

The exam would now be held on Nov. 23 to ensure conditions were fair for everyone, he said.

The 5.4 magnitude quake struck about 9 km (5 miles) north of the southeastern port city of Pohang, the Korea Meteorological Administration said.

Shaking was felt across the country and there were numerous reports of minor damage. Operations at nuclear reactors were not affected, the state-run nuclear operator Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co said.

The university entrance exam is taken very seriously. Commercial airliners do not fly during listening portions of the exam, while financial markets open later in the day to ensure light traffic for students to get to their exam centers.

The country’s foreign exchange and stock markets will still open an hour late (0100 GMT) on Thursday, South Korean financial authorities said in text messages.

South Korea has relatively little seismic activity, compared with Japan to the east.

Its strongest quake on record was magnitude 5.8 in September last year.

The Meteorological Administration said nearly 20 aftershocks had shaken the region and more were expected in coming days.

(Reporting by Christine Kim and Cynthia Kim; Additional reporting by Jane Chung, Haejin Choi; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Collapsed state housing in Iranian quake shows corruption: Rouhani

Collapsed state housing in Iranian quake shows corruption: Rouhani

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The ease with which some state-built homes collapsed in Sunday’s earthquake in western Iran showed corrupt practices when they were constructed, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday in a sentiment shared by many ordinary Iranians.

Some of the houses which collapsed in an earthquake that killed at least 530 people and injured thousands of others were built under an affordable housing scheme initiated in 2011 by Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“That a house built by (ordinary) people in the Sarpol-e Zahab region has remained standing while in front of it a government-built building has collapsed is a sign of corruption,” Rouhani told a cabinet meeting, state media said.

“It’s clear there has been corruption in construction contracts,” he said.

Sarpol-e Zahab is the town hardest hit by Sunday’s 7.3 magnitude quake, the deadliest in Iran in more than a decade.

A picture widely circulated by ordinary Iranians on social media shows a building with relatively little damage in Sarpol-e Zahab next to a heavily damaged government-constructed building.

This has fueled speculation that shoddy construction in the building of government housing had led to a higher number of casualties from the earthquake.

Rouhani said on Tuesday that any shortcomings in government constructed buildings in the earthquake zone will be punished.

Mohammad Hossein Sadeghi, the prosecutor general in Kermanshah, the largest city in the earthquake zone, said on Wednesday that the quality of construction of new buildings that were heavily damaged would be investigated and charges may be brought against anyone deemed responsible.

“If there are any problems with the construction, the individuals who were negligent must answer for their deeds,” Sadeghi said, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA).

An arrest warrant has been issued for a contractor responsible for a recently built hospital which was heavily damaged in the town of Islamabad-e Gharb, parliamentarian Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh said on Tuesday, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).

Residents in the earthquake zone have also complained about the slow and inadequate government response as they struggle to find food, water and shelter.

(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

In Mexican slum, a decades-long wait for quake relief

In Mexican slum, a decades-long wait for quake relief

By Carlos Jasso

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – I first visited Camp No. 3 a few days after the Sept. 19 earthquake.

After reporting from collapsed buildings around the city, this was a different type of shock. Row after row of tiny tin shacks crammed into a small lot hidden behind a high fence in the middle class neighborhood of Lindavista.

Here, hundreds of families who lost their homes in an earthquake 32 years ago are living in deplorable conditions, with children and grandchildren born during the interminable wait for promised government-subsidized homes.

The 1985 earthquake was a defining moment for the Mexican capital. The death toll is still disputed, but at least 5,000 were killed. Some say many more died.

Three decades on, hundreds of its victims are still living in hovels in encampments across the sprawling city of 20 million and now the latest quake has made thousands more people homeless.

Maria de Lourdes Rosales, 64, who lost her home in the 1985 earthquake, answers her phone in her house at the camp known as No.3 in Mexico City, Mexico, October 16, 2017. The camp was founded in 1985 after an earthquake, which killed around 5,000 people. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Maria de Lourdes Rosales, 64, who lost her home in the 1985 earthquake, answers her phone in her house at the camp known as No.3 in Mexico City, Mexico, October 16, 2017. The camp was founded in 1985 after an earthquake, which killed around 5,000 people. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

On first impression the camp is a little menacing, the smell of marijuana hangs in the air and residents warn of thieves and petty crime they blame on new arrivals – people who have moved in to occupy shacks left by families who have received new homes.

A strong sense of community prevails among the 1985 earthquake survivors, necessary perhaps for families who share outdoor toilets and use bared electric cables to heat water to bathe.

And as I have seen among many of Latin America’s poorest people, there is resourcefulness. Most families had some kind of work, many setting up small businesses like food stands selling tacos, or makeshift photocopy shops on the roadside.

One woman made her living charging for toilet paper and access to a bathroom.

According to the leaders of the Lindavista camp, its ramshackle shacks are home to around 750 people, divided into roughly 250 families.

There are almost 200 children who are the grandchildren of those originally resettled here, according to local leaders.

At least six such camps exist in the capital. Mexico City’s housing institute said that since 2016, it has delivered 173 homes to victims of the 1985 quake and expects to hand over 120 more before the end of next year.

A cross is displayed at the home of Martha Mejia at the camp known as No.3, in Mexico City, Mexico, October 17, 2017. The camp was founded in 1985 after an earthquake, which killed around 5,000 people. Mejia lost her home in the 1985 earthquake. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

A cross is displayed at the home of Martha Mejia at the camp known as No.3, in Mexico City, Mexico, October 17, 2017. The camp was founded in 1985 after an earthquake, which killed around 5,000 people. Mejia lost her home in the 1985 earthquake. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Click on http://reut.rs/2go1OS4 for related photo essay

(Reporting by Carlos Jasso; Additional reporting by Noe Torres; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Toni Reinhold)