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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Powerful Earthquake Hits Island in Northern Japan

Aired September 25, 2003 - 17:36   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ..in southern Hokkaido.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: These are new pictures we're just getting into CNN -- pictures from the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, where within the past hour, hour and a half, there has been an enormous earthquake, the U.S. Geological Survey saying it registers 8.0. That's a very large earthquake. We don't know the extent of damage. We don't know the extent of destruction. We don't know about casualties, about injuries. But that information presumably will be coming in shortly.

In fact, let's go to CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon. She's joining us now from Tokyo, where she's monitoring the fallout from this earthquake.

Rebecca, tell us what you know.

REBECCA MACKINNON, CNN TOKYO BUREAU CHIEF: Well, a couple things to note here. The earthquake happened a bit before dawn. It was over an hour and a half ago now, at 4:50 local time. Now it's also important to note the earthquake was 65 miles, or 104 kilometers offshore, off the closest town, is a town called Kushado (ph), of a few hundred thousand people on the eastern coast of Hokkaido.

At this moment, the injury reports coming in from Kushado, which is the closest town to the earthquake, are that roughly 10 people injured. No deaths reported at this time.

Also in some other coastal areas we have a train derailed, two people injured in another village, one person with head injuries that do not appear to be life threatening. So it appears that because the earthquake happened 65 miles off the coast and, also, quite far underground -- 36 miles under the sea bed was where the epicenter of this earthquake took place. And so while there are warnings of high tsunami waves, up to two meters, which is about six feet in height, at this point there are no reports of serious life threatening injuries or any deaths.

But certainly it was a strong quake. It knocked books off shelves. It certainly jolted buildings very heavily. People would have been woken up out of their beds and given a very scary wake-up this morning here in Hokkaido, which is quite some distance from where I am currently in Tokyo. It's about 495 miles away from where I am right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a way -- what a day -- way to start the day for the residents of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon joining us by phone from Tokyo. She'll continue to monitor this story for us.

Rebecca, thanks very much.

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