News World Earthquake devastation: 250,000 evacuated

Earthquake devastation: 250,000 evacuated

Japan earthquake 2016
AP Images.
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Japanese authorities have ordered nearly a quarter of a million people from their homes after a deadly earthquake struck a southern island.

The search for survivors went on into the early hours of Sunday amid worsening weather conditions.

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A 7.3 magnitude tremor struck early on Saturday morning, killing at least 32 people, injuring about a thousand more and causing widespread damage to houses, roads and bridges.

Earthquake Japan April 16 2016
Evacuated residents wait at a park in Higashi-ku in Kumamoto City. Image: Kazuhiro Nogi

It was the second major quake to hit Kumamoto province on the island of Kyushu in just over 24 hours. The first, late on Thursday, killed nine people.

Heavy rain and wind were forecast overnight, with temperatures expected to drop to 13 degrees Celsius. Firefighters handed out tarpaulins to residents so they could cover damaged roofs.

“The wind is expected to pick up and rain will likely get heavier,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a government meeting.

“Rescue operations at night will be extremely difficult … It’s a race against time.”

Television footage throughout Saturday showed fires, power outages, collapsed bridges, a severed road hanging over a ravine and gaping holes in the earth. Residents near a dam were told to leave because of fears it might crumble, said broadcaster NHK.

“I felt strong shaking at first, then I was thrown about like I was in a washing machine,” said a Tokai University student who remains isolated in the village of Minamiaso.

About 422,000 households were without water and 100,000 without electricity, the government said.

NHK said around 240,000 people had received evacuation orders across the affected region amid fears of landslides. Some shelters were too crowded to admit any more people, it said.

Troops set up tents for evacuees and water trucks were being sent to the area. Around 25,000 extra soldiers were due to arrive, as well as more police, firefighters and medics.

Evacuees gather in front of the town office building after escaping homes after the earthquake struck.
Evacuees gather in front of the town office building. ABC

The National Police Agency said 32 people had been confirmed dead. The government said about 190 of those injured were in a serious condition.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said nearly 80 people were believed trapped or buried in rubble. Rescuers pulled 10 students out of a collapsed university apartment in the town of Minami on Saturday.

The city of Kumamoto’s 400-year-old Kumamoto Castle was badly damaged, with its walls breached after having withstood bombardment and fire in its four centuries of existence.

Electronics giant Sony Corp said a plant producing image sensors for smartphone makers would remain closed while it assessed the damage from the quakes. One of its major customers is Apple which uses the sensors in iPhones.

Operations at Toyota Motor Corp and Nissan Motor Co Ltd were also disrupted.

The region’s transport network suffered considerable damage with one tunnel caved in, a highway bridge damaged, roads cut or blocked by landslips and train services halted, media reported.

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