Strongest earthquake since 2011 strikes Kumamoto area
The Japan Times Kyodo, Staff report Apr 14, 2016
A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 struck Kumamoto Prefecture and surrounding areas in Kyushu Thursday evening, the Meteorological Agency said. No tsunami warning was issued.
The quake, which registered the highest 7 on the Japanese earthquake intensity scale, jolted Kumamoto at around 9:26 p.m.
In the town of Mashiki in Kumamoto Prefecture, local authorities have reported the deaths of two people.
More than 20 homes have collapsed and several people are trapped under debris. At least seven fires has been reported in the town.
Approximately 1,800 people in Mashiki have left their homes and are spending the night in evacuation zones.
More than 280 people were being treated for injuries at three hospitals in Kumamoto City, hospital officials said.
Places around Kumamoto also recorded strong jolts ranging between 3 and lower 5 on the Japanese scale.
A series of similarly shallow and frequent aftershocks followed, including one of a preliminary magnitude 6.4 — and upper 6 on the Japanese seismic scale — that hit the area shortly after midnight. Another measuring magnitude 5.7 occurred shortly after 10 p.m.
The weather agency said the earthquake is believed to have struck at a depth of 10 km.
JR Kyushu suspended all operations on the Kyushu Shinkansen Line following the quake. On the Sanyo Shinkansen Line connecting the Honshu mainland and Kyushu, power was lost between Hakata and Kokura stations but operations later resumed at around 9:40 p.m.
Following the quake, Kyushu Electric Power Co. said it found no abnormalities in its Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture. The operator said it is further looking into any possible damage.
Shikoku Electric Power Co. said its Ikata nuclear plant, which is currently idled, sustained no damage from the Kumamoto quake.
In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe immediately set up an emergency headquarters and instructed relevant authorities to gather information.
At a hastily arranged news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government was doing its utmost to get a full picture of the situation, adding that its top priority was the rescue operations.
Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said at a press conference that Self-Defense Forces airplanes and helicopters have been dispatched to the quake-hit area to ascertain the extent of damage. Currently more than 350 military personnel have been dispatched for rescue work.
According to the weather agency, the Kumamoto quake is the first intensity-7 quake since the Great East Japan Earthquake that wreaked havoc in the Tohoku region in March 2011.