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Japan chain claims US$6.4 mil. riot damage

TOKYO -- A Japanese department store chain said Thursday it suffered US$6.4 million worth of damage at three shops in China when violent protests erupted this month over a disputed island chain.

Heiwado president Hirakazu Natsuhara told reporters that mobs had wrecked the buildings in southwest Hunan province and stolen stock, putting the total cost of the losses at 500 million yen, according to broadcaster NHK.

The estimate could more than double to 1.3 billion yen, if the three stores were to remain closed until Dec. 1, he added, according to NHK.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied across China this month to vent their anger over Japan's nationalization of islands in the East China Sea known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Some protests turned violent, with Japanese shops and factories often the target, forcing firms to shut or scale back production.

Heiwado was aiming to reopen one of the damaged stores in around a month, with the other two possibly resuming operations by the end of the year, NHK said.

“I was at the site until yesterday. I received assurances from senior officials in Hunan Province that they will protect our lives and property,” Natsuhara said.

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