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HEARTHQUAKE HITS JAPAN



Published: Wed, August 17, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



hEarthquake hits Japan

SENDAI, Japan -- The earthquake was powerful enough to sway skyscrapers 185 miles away in Tokyo. And with an estimated magnitude of 7.2, it had the potential to cause catastrophic damage. But this time, Japan got lucky. No one died in the quake that rocked a wide swath of northern Japan on Tuesday. The scene of the worst damage was an indoor pool where part of the roof caved in, injuring a couple dozen swimmers, many of them young children. Still, the jolt underscored the fragility of the lifelines of even the most modern, quake-resistant cities. It forced highways and railroads to close, leaving tens of thousands of people stranded, and 17,000 households lost electricity. And with Tokyo overdue for a major quake of its own, it was a psychological jolt for many. In sharp contrast, a 7.3-magnitude quake centered directly under the city of Kobe killed 6,400 people in 1995. Though earthquake-resistant construction standards have undoubtedly mitigated the impact of quakes like Tuesday's -- older homes are generally far more vulnerable than newer ones -- the fragile nature of city lifelines continues to be a major problem.

Crimes lead officialsto possible terror plot

LOS ANGELES -- A police probe that began with a series of gas station holdups here has broadened into an investigation of a possible terrorist plot and connections to a radical Islamic group believed to be operating in the California prison system, law enforcement sources said. The crime spree -- which police said ended with last month's arrest of two local men -- drew the interest of counterterrorism officials when a search of one suspect's home turned up "jihadist" literature, bulletproof vests and a list of addresses for area synagogues, the Israeli consulate, National Guard centers and other sites. Now, federal officials have arrested a third man, a Pakistani national who lived in south Los Angeles near the others, in connection with the investigation, and a law enforcement official said more arrests may follow. Others under scrutiny are already in prison, said the official, who noted that investigators believe at least one of the suspects may have converted to Islam while incarcerated. "From the evidence so far, there is reason to believe that they were planning attacks and that some of those locations may have been targets," said the U.S. official, who requested anonymity because the investigation is continuing.

Spanish troops killedin helicopter crash

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A helicopter carrying NATO peacekeepers crashed in a western Afghan desert Tuesday -- and another flying with it made an emergency landing -- killing 17 Spanish troops and injuring five others providing security ahead of landmark legislative elections. There were conflicting reports about what caused the crash, the biggest loss of life for NATO forces in Afghanistan. A spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force said the crash and emergency landing in Herat province were believed to be accidents, but Spain's defense minister said he did not rule out hostile fire. "It could have been an accident or it could have been an attack from the exterior," Jose Bono said in Madrid. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the crash was caused by a sandstorm. However, Afghan army commander Abdul Wahab Walizada, whose troops provided security at the crash site, said the weather was fine. He said the helicopters were flying too close together, and the rotor blades of one clipped the other.

King hospitalized

ATLANTA -- Civil rights matriarch Coretta Scott King was in fair condition Tuesday after being hospitalized for an unspecified condition, a hospital official said. King, 78, the widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., went to an emergency room Tuesday morning and was resting comfortably later in the day, said Piedmont Hospital spokeswoman Diana Lewis. Lewis would not elaborate on the reason for the hospitalization, but said King would spend the night at the hospital for observation. Lewis said the King family was expected to release a statement today. Attempts to reach relatives by phone Tuesday weren't successful. King has canceled recent public appearances, raising concerns about her health.

Combined dispatches




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