Twin quakes in Japan - 29 dead, many trapped

2016-04-16 07:46
A member of a rescue team runs on a street cracked by the earthquake in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture. (Kazuhiro Nogi, AFP)

A member of a rescue team runs on a street cracked by the earthquake in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture. (Kazuhiro Nogi, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Mashiki - Two powerful earthquakes a day apart shook southwestern Japan, killing at least 29 people, injuring 1 500, trapping many beneath flattened homes and sending thousands to seek shelter in gymnasiums and hotel lobbies.

The exact number of casualties remained unclear as rescue efforts continued to unfold on Saturday. Oncoming rains could further complicate the relief operation and set off more mudslides in isolated rural towns, where people were waiting to be rescued in collapsed homes.

Kumamoto Prefectural official Tomoyuki Tanaka said the death toll was climbing by the hour, with the latest standing at 19 from Saturday's magnitude -7.3 quake that shook the Kumamoto region on the southwestern island of Kyushu at 01:25. On Thursday night, Kyushu was hit by a magnitude-6.5 quake that left 10 dead.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that 1 500 people have been injured, 80 of them seriously. Nearly 70 000 have left their homes, he said.

A series of aftershocks ensued, including a magnitude 5.4 on Saturday morning. The Japan Meteorological Agency said that the quake that struck earlier on Saturday may be the main quake, with the earlier one a precursor. The quakes' epicentres have been relatively shallow - about 10 km - and close to the surface, resulting in more severe shaking and damage.

NHK TV said as many as eight quakes were being felt an hour in the area.

Japanese media reported that nearly 200 000 homes were without electricity. Drinking water systems had also failed in the area. TV footage showed people huddled in blankets, quietly, shoulder to shoulder, on floors of evacuation centres.

One massive landslide tore open a mountainside in Minamiaso village in Kunamato Prefecture all the way from the top to a highway below. Another gnawed at a highway, collapsing a house that fell down a ravine and smashed at the bottom. In another part of the village, houses were left hanging precariously at the edge of a huge hole cut open in the earth.

Suga told reporters the number of troops in the area was being raised to 20 000 for rescue efforts, while additional police and firefighters were also on the way. He said 80 people had been seriously injured, while holding back on giving a death tally, warning that such numbers may grow. Some 1 500 people were injured, and nearly 70 000 people had evacuated, he said.

He pleaded with people not to panic. "Please let's help each other and stay calm," he said in a nationally televised news conference.

Nuclear plant safe

Mount Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan which is located on Kyushu, erupted for the first time in a month, sending smoke rising about 100 m into the air, but no damage was reported. It was not immediately clear if there's a link the seismic activity and the eruption. The 1 592 m high mountain is about 1 ½ hour drive from the epicentre.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority reported no abnormalities at Kyushu's Sendai nuclear plant.

NHK TV showed stones tumbled from the walls of historic Kumamoto Castle, and a wooden structure in the complex was smashed. At the Ark Hotel, east of the castle, hotel guests woke up to strong shaking and a warning siren. Hotel staff told guests, including tourists and journalists covering the quake, to evacuate their rooms and gather in the lobby for safety.

A bright spot, broadcast repeatedly on television Friday, was the overnight rescue of an apparently uninjured baby, wrapped in a blanket and carried out of the rubble of a home.

Saturday's quake hit residents who were still in shock from the previous night's earthquake and had suffered through more than 100 aftershocks.

Yuichiro Yoshikado said Thursday's quake stuck as he was taking a bath in his apartment in Mashiki.

"I grabbed onto the sides of the bathtub, but the water in the tub, it was about 70% filled with water, was going like this," he said, waving his arms, "and all the water splashed out."

Yoshikado, whose building was undamaged despite the intense shaking, checked the damage at his aunt and uncle's home nearby. Kitchenware was scattered on the floor, and a clock had stopped around 21:26, the time of Thursday's quake.

"I thought I was going to die and I couldn't bear it any longer," he said.

Read more on:    japan  |  earthquakes

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.