A series of earthquakes, the strongest with a magnitude of 6.6 on the Richter scale (6.8 on the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) scale), jolted Niigata Prefecture, Japan, late in the afternoon of 23 October 2004, killing about 40 people and injuring about 3000, largely as the result of building collapse. More than 100,000 residents were forced to evacuate their homes, and 2200 residents of Yamakoshi village and other areas have not yet returned.
The three strongest earthquakes (M>6.2 on the JMA scale) occurred within less than 40 min with epicenters spread across Ojiya city and Hirokami and Yamakoshi villages in Niigata Prefecture. These earthquakes were characterized by shallow focal depths (9–14 km) that generated strong levels of ground motion, resulting in extensive damage throughout the region.
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