By Todd Crowell
TOKYO (AA) – At least 19 people were confirmed dead Saturday after a second strong earthquake rocked southwestern Japan, where nine others were killed in an earlier temblor. This brings to total number of people killed to 28.30,000 troops have been deployed.
According to Kyodo news agency, nearly 2,000 people sustained injuries in the Kyushu region after the tremors Thursday night and early Saturday morning, which had magnitudes of 6.5 and 7.3, respectively. Of the 909 confirmed wounded Saturday, 171 were considered serious cases.
Aftershocks taking place every hour.
The deaths confirmed Saturday were recorded across Kumamoto prefecture, mainly as a result of victims being crushed by collapsed buildings and falling furniture, according to the local government.
Japan’s weather agency said that a small-scale eruption occurred at Mt. Aso, but said any connection between the volcanic activity and tremors remained unclear.
Kumamoto police reported receiving around 100 reports of people trapped in toppled buildings, and 10 of people stuck in landslides.
Around 11 people including students are believed to be trapped under four apartment buildings that collapsed near Tokai University in Aso city.
Part of the ceiling of the terminal building at Kumamoto airport caved in, resulting in the cancellation of all flights in and out of the airport, while the city hall of Uto partially collapsed.
Meanwhile, Minamiaso was hit by a large landslide that cut off a national highway and destroyed a bridge.
No abnormalities were reported at two operating reactors at a nuclear power plant in the Kyushu region.
More than 65 aftershocks struck the area as of 11 a.m. (0200GMT) following Saturday’s quake, according to public broadcaster NHK.
In Kumamoto, around 69,000 people evacuated their homes, while power was cut to 160,000 households.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told an emergency meeting Saturday that the government would do its utmost and mobilize all available resources in response to the tremors.
Kyodo also cited Defense Minister Gen Nakatani saying that up to 15,000 Self-Defense Forces personnel would be deployed to Kumamoto within Saturday with another 5,000 to follow Sunday.
[Photo: Earthquakes are common in Japan. This earhquake in funato, Japan took place in March 2011. Photographer: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Matthew M. Bradley. For public domain.]