Image: Japanese children
Kyodo  /  Reuters
Japanese children huddle on the floor at an elementary school in Kawaguchi, in northern Japan, Sunday during a powerful aftershock.
updated 11/8/2004 7:48:39 AM ET 2004-11-08T12:48:39

A magnitude 5.9 earthquake rocked northern Japan on Monday, injuring at least eight people, near the area where the country’s deadliest earthquake in years struck last month.

The quake, which hit at 11:16 a.m., appeared to be an aftershock to last month’s magnitude-6.8 temblor. It was centered close to the earth’s surface in the Chuetsu area of Niigata prefecture, the Meteorological Agency said.

The operators of the high-speed “bullet” train line between Tokyo and Niigata suspended service to conduct safety checks. One train derailed last month when the initial quake struck almost directly under its tracks.

Television footage from Niigata showed swaying power lines. Three weaker temblors of magnitudes 5.0, 4.5 and 4.2 struck in succession in the 30 minutes following the initial aftershock, the Agency said.

The quake posed no danger of a seismic tidal wave, it said.

A man was injured after being briefly buried by a small landslide, said Atsushi Moriyama, a spokesman for Niigata prefecture. Five kindergarten students and their teacher also were injured when a wall they were walking past collapsed and a woman was injured after losing control of her motorbike.

Takeshi Minagawa, an official at the town hall in Nakanoshima, among several towns where the quake shook strongest, said he felt 10 seconds of vertical rocking. He said it felt stronger than other aftershocks, but no damage was reported in the town.

Several roads were closed in Nakanoshima while officials confirmed if they were safe to use after the quake, Minagawa said.

The Oct. 23 jolt that struck Niigata and aftershocks in the days that followed killed 39 people and injured more than 2,000. It was the deadliest quake to hit Japan since 1995, when a magnitude-7.2 quake killed 6,433 people in the western city of Kobe.

Thousands of people in the area are still living in temporary public shelters or are camped out in tents and cars because their homes are ruined. Agency officials warned residents to avoid damaged structures because there was a greater risk they could crumble.

“Aftershocks are still occurring in this area and there is high probability another quake of the same strength will strike again within the next month or so,” Masahiro Yamamoto, an agency official, said in a televised news conference.

Located along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” Japan is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries. A magnitude 5 earthquake can cause damage to homes if it occurs in a residential area.

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