After two powerful quakes rocked the island of Kyushu in southern Japan barely a day apart, rescuers are racing to find survivors as aftershocks continue to shake the area.
The death toll stands at 41, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, and some 2,000 were treated in hospitals for their injuries.
At least 90 homes were “completely destroyed,” NHK reported. It adds: “more damage is likely, as some municipalities are still unable to confirm their local situation.”
NPR’s Elise Hu updated our Newcast unit on the rescue efforts:
“Crews are scrambling to find survivors and reports on injuries are changing fast after Saturday’s magnitude-7.3 quake shook the Kumamoto region of Japan’s southern island of Kyushu. The latest quake happened barely 24 hours after the same island was hit by a magnitude-6 quake on Thursday.
“Saturday’s quake triggered a huge landslide, ripped roads apart, flattened homes and sent tens of thousands to temporary shelters. 20,000 Japanese self-defense troops have headed to the disaster region to help with rescue and recovery. Japan is located in one of the most seismically active regions of the world, known as the Pacific ring of fire.”
The rescue efforts could be impacted by heavy rain and wind expected overnight, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters. “He said people are waiting to be rescued and he called on ministers to put a top priority on saving lives,” NHK reported.
Abe referred to the efforts “a race against time,” according to The Associated Press. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said “nearly 80 people were believed trapped or buried in rubble,” the wire service added.
Suga also said that “more than 91,000 have been evacuated from their homes.”
The second major quake was far deadlier than the first – it killed 32 people, compared to nine killed in earlier temblor on Thursday.
Saturday’s quake was also unusually shallow, according the USGS. And as we reported Friday, the area saw more than 100 smaller quakes between the two major ones.
NHK added that “hundreds of thousands of households are without electricity, gas and tap water.” Kumamoto Airport’s terminal building was damaged during the quakes, and all flights Saturday were cancelled.
As The Two-Way reported, there are reports that the historic Kumamoto Castle sustained damage from the temblors.
The Associated Press said that according to a senior government official, “no irregularities were reported at three nuclear power plants in the area.” A tsunami advisory has also been lifted.