Friday, April 15, 2016 7:44 am
Japanese government this morning counted the losses of the overnight 6.5-magnitude quake that struck the southwestern island of Kyushu on Thursday , leaving lumps of broken concrete strewn in the streets.
Officials at the local Kumamoto disaster agency confirmed nine dead, and at least 860 people injured, 53 seriously.
Houses collapsed, roads buckled, factories stopped work and a high-speed train was de-railed, while the roof of the treasured Kumamoto castle in the southern city of the same name was also damaged. The quake also sparked fires.
“There was a ka-boom and the whole house shook violently sideways,” Takahiko Morita, a resident of nearby town Mashiki, said in a telephone interview with public broadcaster NHK.
“Furniture and bookshelves fell down, and books were all over the floor.”
Dozens of aftershocks followed the quake, which hit about 9:26 pm (1226 GMT) on Thursday evening, and officials warned the death toll could rise as rescuers scoured the collapsed structures.
As rescue workers toiled through the night, an eight-month-old baby girl was pulled from the rubble alive and unharmed, NHK reported.
“As far as we can tell from infrared images from a police helicopter, there appears to be a significant number of houses destroyed or half-collapsed,” said disaster minister Taro Kono.
“There are fears the number of injured could rise.”
Rescuers are concentrating their searches in Mashiki, a town near the epicentre of the quake where the most deaths have been recorded.
On the streets, the remains of collapsed Japanese-style houses — many of them aged, wooden structures — could be seen, and damaged roof tiles lay in piles.
Scores of people spent the night huddled in front of the town hall, some in tears, while others wrapped themselves in blankets to ward off the nighttime chill.
“I’m so scared of the aftershocks that I cannot sleep,” 94-year-old Tomiko Takahashi told Jiji Press.
“We are combing through Mashiki where the damage was serious to see if there are any people who are still seeking rescue,” said government spokesman Yoshihide Suga.
Gen Aoki, a Japan Meteorological Agency seismologist, urged residents to be on guard for more aftershocks and warned rain in coming days could make the situation worse.
“Please do not go near damaged houses and structures that are about to collapse,” he said at an early morning briefing.
About 57,000 households in Kumamoto prefecture have been left without water, according to local government figures.
Nuclear plants in the region were unaffected, but several major manufacturers including Honda, Bridgestone, and Sony said they had suspended operations at factories in the area.
Train services on Kyushu were temporarily halted after Thursday’s earthquake and a super fast bullet train derailed — luckily while it was empty — said Yusuke Nanri, a spokesman for operator JR Kyushu.