4.9 earthquake strikes off west coast

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4.9 earthquake strikes off west coast

With the death toll incurred from a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Sichuan Province, southwest China, on early Saturday morning climbing to 180 with 24 missing and 11,492 injured as of yesterday, a 4.9-magnitude earthquake jolted Korea yesterday morning, leading many to worry about the potential consequences of such a natural disaster here.

The quake began in waters 101 kilometers (62.7 miles) off Heuksan Island in Shinan County, South Jeolla, at 8:21 a.m. yesterday, according to the Korea Meteorological Administration.

It lasted about four minutes and was the most powerful earthquake recorded this year as well as the sixth-most-powerful since records began in 1978.

Tremors from a 4.9-magnitude earthquake can be felt by people and shake objects in buildings. No casualties or property losses were reported to government officials as the quake occurred far away from land.

“Windows in my house were shaking as if a large vehicle were passing on the road [in front of the house],” a Heuksan Island resident was quoted as saying yesterday by YTN. “Many residents here didn’t feel the earthquake, including my parents.”

Yeonggwang Nuclear Power Plant in South Jeolla, located 174 kilometers from the origin of yesterday’s earthquake, ran normally.

Nuclear reactors in Korea are built to withstand earthquakes up to 6.5 in magnitude that occur as close as 10 kilometers away, according to the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission.

The origin of the earthquake yesterday in the waters off South Jeolla is nearby the place where a 4.2-magnitude earthquake was detected in September.

A 5.2-magnitude earthquake that jolted the nation on May 29, 2004 in waters 80 kilometers east of Uljin County, North Gyeongsang, is the most destructive ever recorded.

About four hours after the earthquake hit Korean waters yesterday, a 6.1-magnitude quake hit Japanese waters 644 kilometers south of Tokyo at roughly 12:20 p.m., sparking concerns about a repeat of the massive earthquake-triggered tsunami that devastated the northeastern Japanese coast in 2011. No casualties were reported by the government in Tokyo as of yesterday.

By Kang Jin-kyu, Lee Hai-suk [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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