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Strong tremor creates scare

Date Posted: 1998-05-09

An earthquake centered off Ishigaki Island South-West of Okinawa some 360 miles away, sent officials worrying about a tidal wave and some residents scurrying on higher land for safety, Monday. However, the tidal wave didn't materialize and no reports of damage have emerged.

Officials at Okinawa Weather Bureau said that the earthquake measured 7.7 on open ended Richter scale at its epicenter which makes it very strong, and prtompted them to issue an urgent warning for a tsunami.

As it turns out, nothing much happened. Ishigaki and Miyako Island which were nearest to the quake's center experienced jolts measuring three in intensity but caused no damage.

The officials warning triggered somewhat of a panic in Ishigaki where about 50 cars jammed on a narrow road leading up to a mountain, and as many as 500 residents escaped on foot on the same road.

Officials also forced people camping on beaches to pack their tents and seek safer grounds. In Aja Port in Naha, the police briefly closed the Naha Dragonboat Race festival grounds.

Scientist are now at odds as to why the tsunami didn't appear. "We have to figure out more details of how tsunamis are born. Normally this strong quake creates a sizable tsunami," Kayo Sawada, the Okinawa Weather Bureau's Tsunami Watch Section chief said.

IN 1771, an earthquake scientists estimate measured 7.4 on Richter's scale created a 30-meter (100ft.) high tsunami which killed 12,000 people in Ishigaki.

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