At least 32 people have died in the latest Kyushu earthquake, according to Kumamoto Prefecture’s disaster management office. The magnitude-7.0 quake hit early Saturday.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described the search for survivors in piles of rubble as a “race against the clock,” noting that bad weather had conspired with the devastating quake, its aftershocks and the threat of landslides to make a dire situation worse.
At least 23 people are buried inside buildings, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
“We’re racing against the clock,” Abe said. “(We) will provide more personnel if necessary.”
Residents were already edgy after a 6.2. quake rattled the area two days earlier, killing nine people. The combined death toll has reached 41. Both earthquakes left 968 people injured, according to the disaster management office.
“This is worst thing that could happened to us,” said Shigeru Morita, an official in the town of Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture.
The latest and most powerful earthquake struck near the city of Kumamoto, toppling buildings and bridges, shredding sections of landmarks into piles of debris, and sending frightened residents fleeing from their homes and into the night.
hit near Ueki city, just 15 kilometers away.
“The first earthquake was very big,” said Osamu Yoshizumi, the senior chief of international affairs in Kumamoto. “We thought it was the big one.”
That initial earthquake was a “fore-shock” to the latest one, according to USGS.