Japan earthquake forces evacuation of 40 000

2016-04-18 10:27
Residents gather for shelter in front of the town hall following an earthquake at Mashiki town in Kumamoto prefecture. (Jiji Press, AFP)

Residents gather for shelter in front of the town hall following an earthquake at Mashiki town in Kumamoto prefecture. (Jiji Press, AFP)

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Mashiki - More than 40 000 people were evacuated to schools and community centres, some spending the night outside after the first quake hit around 21:30 local time.

Roads cracked, houses crumbled and tiles fell from the roof of Kumamoto Castle in the centre of the city.

More than 3 000 troops, police and firefighters were dispatched to the area from around Japan, and Shinzo Abe, prime minister, said more would be sent if needed.

Rescuers were concentrating their searches in Mashiki, near the epicentre of the quake where eight of the nine deaths occurred.

Footage from public broadcaster NHK showed firefighters tackling a blaze in a building in Mashiki, a town of about 34 000 people.

About 16 500 households in and around Mashiki were without electricity, according to Kyushu Electric Power Company.

There were no irregularities at three nuclear plants on the southern major island of Kyushu and nearby Shikoku, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said.

The plant is 130km south of Kumamoto. The operator restarted the reactors last year, the first two units under updated regulations.

In March 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake led to a devastating tsunami that killed 18 000 people along Japan's northeast coast.

The wave struck the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing a major radiation leakage.  

More than 100 000 displaced people are still unable to return to their homes near the nuclear plant because of the contamination.

Read more on:    japan  |  earthquakes

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