TOKYO (AA) – At least nine victims were confirmed dead and more than 800 others injured Friday following a strong earthquake in southwestern Japan that collapsed houses and resulted in the evacuation of around 44,000 people.
Kyodo news agency reported that no abnormalities were detected at nuclear power plants in the southern Kyushu region after the initial magnitude 6.5 temblor Thursday night.
The Japan Meteorological Agency announced that as of 10 a.m. (0100GMT) Friday, the area had been hit by 123 aftershocks, warning that more were expected.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament Friday that more than 3,000 Self-Defense Forces personnel, police and firefighters had been deployed to Kumamoto Prefecture.
“We will do our best in ensuring the safety of residents,” the news agency quoted him saying.
According to the Kumamoto police, seven fatalities occurred in Mahsiki town, where 20 houses collapsed and the initial quake registered 7 on the country’s seismic scale — marking the first time the highest level was reached since the 2011 tsunami-earthquake that led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Two other people died in Higashi Ward in the prefectural capital of Kumamoto City.
Of the victims, eight died in toppled houses, while at least 860 people sustained injuries — 53 of them serious.
According to the prefectural government, around 44,400 people have been evacuated and are taking shelter at about 500 sites.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo that 14,500 households had experienced power cuts, while 25,000 were affected by disruptions of water supply and 4,600 of gas supply.
[Map: DEMIS Mapserver, Chris 73/Creative Commons]