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Japan hit hard by quake

March 25, 2007 at 7:45 AM

TOKYO, March 24 (UPI) -- Strong earthquakes hit minutes apart in the Pacific Sunday, one off Japan's largest island, Honshu, and two in the archipelago nation of Vanuatu.

One person was killed and at least 137 were injured in Japan, which was rattled by more than 50 noticeable aftershocks, Kyodo News Service reported. A 52-year-old woman died when a stone lantern fell on her in her garden in Wajima.

Hundreds of houses were destroyed or damaged in Wajima, causing the evacuation of more than 1,000 people. Train service was suspended, highways were blocked and electricity and water were cut in parts of the stricken region. The Noto airport also was closed.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered the government "to work toward securing the citizens' safety and take all possible measures to rescue them."

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage in the Vanuatu region.

The Japanese quake registered 6.9 on the Richter scale and the bigger of the Vanuatu quakes hit a magnitude of 7.2.

Mark Leonard from Geoscience Australia told the Australian Broadcasting Corp., the second temblor that rocked quake-prone Vanuatu was "the biggest earthquake down in that southern area of Vanuatu for some years."

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