Japan hit by series of earthquakes

Scores of people are sleeping in their cars after a series of terrifying earthquakes that have killed 41 people and injured around 1,500 in southern Japan.

Search efforts resumed for about half a dozen missing people in debris-strewn communities in a mountainous area near Mount Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe said the defence ministry is co-ordinating with the US military in Japan to add US aircraft to the search and recovery effort.

Landslides from Saturday’s magnitude 7.3 earthquake have blocked roads and destroyed bridges, making it difficult to access the area east of Kumamoto, a city of 740,000 on the south-western island of Kyushu.

That came just 28 hours after a magnitude-6.5 quake hit the same area, while there has been a series of terrifying aftershocks.

Some 50 residents of Ozu are planning to sleep in their cars at a public park after the earthquakes that have seen more than 90,000 people evacuated from their homes, flattened houses, and triggered major landslides.

“I don’t think we can go back there. Our life is in limbo,” said 62-year-old Yoshiaki Tanaka, as other evacuees served rice balls for dinner. He, his wife, and his 85-year-old mother fled their home after Saturday’s quake hit at 1.25am local time.

About 80,000 homes in Kumamoto prefecture still did not have electricity yesterday, the ministry of economy, trade and industry said. Japanese media reported an estimated 400,000 households were without running water. More than 200 houses and other buildings had been either destroyed or damaged.

Hundreds of people lined up for rations at distribution points before nightfall, bracing for the rain and strong winds that were expected.

Police in Kumamoto prefecture said at least 32 people had died in Saturday’s earthquake. Nine died in the quake on Thursday night.

More than half the deaths were in Mashiki, a town on the eastern border of Kumamoto city that was hit hardest by the first quake.

Four people were missing in Minamiaso, a more rural area farther east of Kumamoto where the landslides were triggered by the second quake. The number of troops in the area has been raised to 20,000, while additional police and firefighters are also on the way.


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