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    Japan estimates $12.5 billion in earthquake damage

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    Estimated economic losses caused by last week's powerful earthquake in northwestern Japan could total $12.5 billion, local authorities said Monday.

    TOKYO, July 23 (RIA Novosti) - Estimated economic losses caused by last week's powerful earthquake in northwestern Japan could total $12.5 billion, local authorities said Monday.

    A 6.8-magnitude quake that severely hit the Niigata prefecture July 16 killed at least 10 people and completely destroyed about a thousand buildings, seriously damaging at least a further 9,000.

    The quake has also caused a number of problems at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, which has been shut down, and could be closed for a year, due to confirmed radiation leaks and future safety concerns.

    Japan said Monday it would allow experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect the quake-hit NPP, which is the world's largest in terms of output, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

    "It will be important for Japan and the IAEA to work together and to analyze the results carefully," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said.

    Japan's nuclear power industry supplies about one-third of the country's electricity needs.

    In addition, Niigata authorities said damage to road infrastructure could amount to over $33 million and local commerce could suffer at least $2.5 billion in losses.

    Last week's tremor has also seriously affected local manufacturers, including automakers.

    Following a temporary closure of a Riken Corporation plant in the city of Kashiwazaki, which produces 50% of engine piston rings and 70% of engine gaskets in the country, Japan's leading carmakers have been forced to halt production at their Japanese plants for several days.

    Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday the quake had already cost the company production of at least 46,000 cars and the number could go as high as 55,000 vehicles.

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