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NEW: 3 quakes kill 2 people on Russian island of Sakhalin, says ministry

Quake caused small tsunami on west coast of Japan’s Hokkaido; no damage

No reports of injuries or damage in Japan from the quakes or tsunami waves
YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, Russia (Reuters) — A series of three earthquakes killed two people on Russia’s Pacific island of Sakhalin on Thursday, the Russian emergencies ministry said.

1 of 2  Japan’s Meteorological Agency registered the first earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 off Sakhalin. It was felt in nearby Japan but there were no immediate reports of damage or injury there.

A Reuters reporter on Sakhalin said he felt three tremors, over a two-hour period. The third, at about 4:00 p.m. (0500 GMT), was the most intense, said the reporter who was in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the main city on Sakhalin island.

The emergencies ministry said a 30-year-old woman died when the building she was in collapsed in the town of Nevelsk. A man also died in the town as he was being evacuated from a building. Two other people were hurt.

“Cracks appeared in buildings, and furniture fell over inside apartments, but there is no damage to other towns, only to Nevelsk. Energy supplies have also been disrupted,” said Sergei Viktorov, the local Russian emergencies ministry spokesman.

In Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, some people rushed from their homes. After the third earthquake, several buildings were evacuated.

The local offices of international consortium Sakhalin Energy and Exxon Mobil Corp, which is developing massive oil and gas resources off Sakhalin, sent employees home.

In 1995, the island was hit by Russia’s worst recorded earthquake. The quake killed 1,989 people from the town of Neftegorsk, which had a magnitude of 7.6.

Yuri Levin, acting director of the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk seismic station, said there was no reason to panic.

“Sakhalin is in a seismically sensitive zone, and there is a chance of a major earthquake sometime in the next 50 years.”

A small tsunami caused by the earthquake, with waves of up to 30 cm (12 inches) hit the west coast of Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido without causing damage. But a warning of further waves was lifted after about an hour.

There were no reports of damage or injury in Japan, and only light shaking was detected in some Hokkaido towns. Television cameras trained on the ocean showed no change in sea levels. E-mail to a friend

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