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Thousands of northeast Japan homes still without power after earthquake kills four

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(Last Updated On: March 17, 2022)

Tens of thousands of Japanese households remained without power on Thursday morning, more than 10 hours after a powerful earthquake that left at least four dead and more than 100 injured, and severed transport links to the country’s northeast, Reuters reported.

Companies including a giant chipmaker and Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) raced to assess the impact of the magnitude 7.4 quake, which struck shortly before midnight on Wednesday. Supply chain disruptions could put more pressure on already strained global output of smartphones, electronics and automobiles, read the report.

The temblor revived memories of the March 11, 2011 disaster in the same area, and left Shinkansen bullet train service indefinitely suspended, with at least one major highway to the region closed for safety checks.

According to Reuters parts of building facades tumbled into streets below in some areas, and television footage showed a steep tiled roof crumpled over a parked, crushed car and workers examining cracked highways.

Areas of Tokyo lost power immediately after the quake, though most regained it within three hours.

But some 24,270 households serviced by Tohoku Electric Power Co (9506.T) in northeast Japan remained without electricity by 10:00 a.m. local time (0100 GMT) on Thursday, although the firm said it expected most will have supply restored later in the day.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said four people had died and that the government would be on high alert for the possibility of further strong tremors over the next two to three days, Reuters reported.

According to Reuters at least 107 people were reported injured, several of them seriously, with 4,300 households still without water by mid-morning. Residents of one Fukushima city formed a long queue in a parking lot to fill up plastic tanks with water for use at home.

Renesas Electronics Corp (6723.T), the world’s biggest maker of automotive microcontroller chips, said it was checking for quake damage at three plants in Japan.

Among them is its advanced Naka plant in Ibaraki prefecture, which closed for three months following the March 2011 quake and for a shorter time after a quake in 2021. It had to halt production last year because of a fire, exacerbating a global chip shortage that is forcing auto companies to curb output.

The quake, initially measured at magnitude 7.3 but later revised up to 7.4 by the Japan Meteorological Agency, hit at 11.36 p.m. local time just off the coast of Fukushima prefecture at a depth of 60 kilometres. The 2011 quake and tsunami off Fukushima – commemorated across the country less than a week ago – left some 18,000 dead.

A tsunami warning was issued but cancelled early on Thursday morning. Some areas reported a rise in the sea level but no serious damage was immediately reported.

The 2011 disaster also set off meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. No abnormalities were reported at any nuclear power plants, although authorities had earlier said a fire alarm had been triggered at a turbine building at the crippled plant.

Manufacturers said they were trying to gauge the potential damage to their facilities in the region.

Toyota said it had cancelled the day shift at two factories in northeast Japan after workers evacuated the plants during their evening shift on Wednesday. The automaker said it will decide on the evening shift later.

Mizuho Financial Group Inc’s (8411.T) main banking arm said some of its ATMs temporarily stopped operations due to power outages, but that they had all been restored to service.

In an attempt to cover the area affected by the Shinkansen outage, All Nippon Airways (9202.T) and Japan Airlines (JAL) said they had added extra flights to northern cities. There were no forecasts of when regular rail service might be restored.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei stock average jumped, with no impact seen from the quake

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Israeli airstrike kills two people in Damascus, Syrian state TV says

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(Last Updated On: February 22, 2024)

An Israeli airstrike hit a residential building in the Kafr Sousa district in Syria’s capital Damascus on Wednesday, killing two people, Syrian state media and a security source said.

A military source cited by Syrian state TV said the strike at about 9:40 a.m. (0640 GMT) wounded a number of other people, identifying the dead as civilians, Reuters reported.

Images published by Syrian state media showed the charred side of a multi-storey building. The security source said the “attack did not achieve its aims”.

The neighbourhood hosts residential buildings, schools and Iranian cultural centres, and lies near a large, heavily-guarded complex used by security agencies. The district was struck in an Israeli attack in February 2023 that killed Iranian military experts.

Witnesses heard several back-to-back explosions. The blasts scared children at a nearby school and ambulances rushed to the area, the witnesses told Reuters.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

Iran’s semi-official Student News Network said no Iranian citizens were killed in the strike, read the report.

On Wednesday afternoon, a Reuters witness heard another large blast in the capital that shook the windows of homes. Local Syrian outlet Sham FM said several explosions were heard in the capital without specifying the cause.

Iran has been a major backer of President Bashar al-Assad during Syria’s nearly 12-year-old conflict. Its support for Damascus and the Lebanese group Hezbollah has drawn regular Israeli air strikes meant to curb Tehran’s extraterritorial military power.

Those strikes have ramped up in line with flaring regional tensions since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, with more than half a dozen Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers killed in suspected Israeli strikes on Syria since December.

As a result, the Guards have scaled back deployment of their senior officers in Syria and have planned to rely more on allied Shi’ite militia to preserve their sway there, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this month.

Iran, a backer of Hamas, has sought to stay out of the conflict itself even as it supports groups that have entered the fray from Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Syria – the so-called “Axis of Resistance” that is hostile to Israeli and U.S. interests.

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US military drone shot down near Yemen, US officials say

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(Last Updated On: February 21, 2024)

A U.S. military Mq-9 drone was shot down near Yemen by Iran-backed militants, two U.S. officials said on Tuesday, the second time such a shoot down has taken place in recent months during a near daily tit-for-tat between the group and U.S. forces, Reuters reported.

The Houthis, who have controlled most of Yemen for nearly a decade, have carried out repeated drone and missile strikes since November in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait against commercial and military ships. U.S. and British forces have responded with multiple strikes on Houthi facilities but have so far failed to halt the attacks.

One of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said initial information showed that the U.S. drone, made by General Atomics, was hit near Hodeidah on Monday. The official said information could change and did not say if the drone was in international airspace.

The second official said the drone was shot down by a Houthi surface-to-air missile fired from near Hodeida.

The comments by the officials confirm a claim by the Houthis that they had shot down a drone near the port city, read the report.

In November, another Mq-9 was shot down by the Houthis and two drones were brought down by the group in 2019.

The Houthi militants said on Monday they had attacked the Rubymar cargo vessel in the Gulf of Aden, which was at risk of sinking, raising the stakes in their campaign to disrupt global shipping in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war.

Despite Western attacks on them in Yemen, the Houthis have vowed to continue targeting ships linked to Israel until attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip stop, Reuters reported.

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World

Israel opposes ‘unilateral’ imposition of Palestinian state

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(Last Updated On: February 19, 2024)

Israel on Sunday formalised its opposition to what it called the “unilateral recognition” of Palestinian statehood, and said any such agreement must be reached through direct negotiations, Reuters reported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought the “declaratory decision” to a vote in cabinet, which unanimously approved the measure, according to a statement.

Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly meeting that the move comes after “recent talk in the international community about an attempt to unilaterally impose on Israel a Palestinian state.”

The war in Gaza that has raged since Hamas’ Oct. 7 rampage through Israeli communities is the latest in a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that has rumbled on for seven decades and destabilised the Middle East.

Efforts to achieve a two-state solution – a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza alongside Israel – have been stalled since 2014, read the report.

U.S. President Joe Biden has been trying to clinch an even broader deal in the Middle East, that would include Saudi Arabia and other Arab states normalizing ties with Israel, as well as the creation of a Palestinian state.

The formal Israeli statement, according to Netanyahu’s office, reflects the fact that: “Israel rejects outright international dictates regarding a permanent accord with the Palestinians. An accord, should it be reached, will only come through direct negotiations between the sides, without preconditions.”

“Israel will continue to oppose the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Such recognition in the wake of the October 7th massacre will grant a huge, unprecedented reward to terrorism and prevent any future peace accord,” it said.

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