• Kyodo News


The Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it has confirmed the deaths of two more Japanese among the 28 missing after a magnitude 6.3 quake devastated Christchurch, New Zealand, on Feb. 22.

The first case was confirmed Sunday.

The death toll, which stood at 166 Tuesday, is expected to reach about 200.

Asuka Tsuchihashi, 28, a nurse from Wakayama Prefecture, and Kyoko Kawahata, 20, a student at Nara Women’s University from Toyama Prefecture, have been confirmed dead, while the other 25 Japanese remain unaccounted for, according to the ministry. New Zealand authorities earlier abandoned the search for survivors.

The bodies of Tsuchihashi and Kawahata were identified from their dental records and personal belongings, the ministry said, adding Kawahata had her school ID card.

A brother of Megumi Horita, another missing student from Toyama, said his father has got a call from local authorities that Megumi’s death was confirmed. But neither the Foreign Ministry nor the Toyama municipal office had confirmed the information as of Wednesday night.

Tsuchihashi and Kawahata were among the 28 Japanese, including 12 students from a language school in the city of Toyama, who are believed to have been in the six-story Canterbury TV building, which houses King’s Education language school, when it collapsed.

Japanese officials in Christchurch said the New Zealand government told them Monday night it had identified Tsuchihashi’s body, followed by Kawahata’s Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, relatives of Yoshiko Hirauchi, 61, the first Japanese confirmed dead in the quake, viewed her body in the South Island city, the officials said, adding they are making arrangements to take her corpse back to Japan.

Quake rocks north

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.2 rocked the Tohoku region shortly before noon Wednesday, measuring lower 5 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in northern Miyagi Prefecture, the Meteorological Agency said.

A tsunami alert was issued for the region’s Pacific coast, including Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. The alert for around 50-cm-high waves was lifted hours later, after no major damage was reported.

The 11:45 a.m. quake, which was felt as far away as Tokyo, registered lower 5 in northern Miyagi Prefecture and 4 in northern Aomori Prefecture as well as southern coastal areas and northern inland areas in Iwate Prefecture.

The quake’s focus was 160 km east of Ojika Peninsula at a depth of 10 km, the agency said.

A 60-cm wave was reported at Ofunato port in Iwate Prefecture, local authorities said.

According to Tohoku Electric Power Co., there were no quake-induced abnormalities detected at its Onagawa nuclear power plant in Miyagi Prefecture. Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. said no damage was reported at its Aomori nuclear fuel facilities.

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