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Japan Sends Mistaken Missile Alert to Airports After Quake

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April 14 (Bloomberg) -- Japan’s aviation bureau mistakenly reported a North Korean missile launch as it sought damage reports from airports after the biggest earthquake in the western part of the country since 1995.

The bureau sent the pre-written e-mail alert to 87 airport offices after the temblor hit at 5:33 a.m. yesterday, the Transportation Ministry said in a statement. The message was retracted at 5:39 a.m., and it may have caused a delay as long as four minutes to one flight, according to the statement.

The ministry will require that two officials check all weekend mobile-phone alerts prior to distribution to prevent any similar mistake, it said in an e-mailed release last night.

The 5.8-magnitude quake was the biggest in the region since the 7.2-magnitude Great Hanshin Earthquake in January 1995, Japan’s Meteorological Agency said. There were 23 people injured due to the tremor, the Fire and Disaster management Agency said in a statement yesterday. No damage to nuclear plants was reported, it said.

A magnitude-9 quake and subsequent tsunami off Japan’s northeast coast on March 11, 2011, crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi atomic station, causing meltdowns and radiation leaks that will leave areas around the plant uninhabitable for decades.

To contact the reporter on this story: Naoko Fujimura in Tokyo at nfujimura@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stanley James at sjames8@bloomberg.net

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