Rescue efforts intensified after quake in southwest Japan

Updated: 2016-04-15 13:52


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Rescue efforts intensified after quake in southwest Japan

Firefighters walk among collapsed houses caused by an earthquake in Mashiki town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 15, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

TOKYO - A powerful earthquake that rocked southwestern Japan on Thursday night has left nine people dead so far and hundreds injured as emergency Self-Defense Force personnel have been rapidly deployed to the region to help with ongoing search and rescue efforts.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a press briefing that the government will do everything in its power to support the victims of the quake and ensure emergency provisions such as food, water and medical assistance are on hand to those who need it.

A disaster response team has been set up at the prime minister's office and response efforts are being coordinated from there. Abe said that he is in touch with Kumamoto's governor and will work closely with the quake-hit prefecture to coordinate operations.

The Japanese leader told a lower house session on Friday the government would do its utmost to help local residents.

"We will do our best in ensuring the safety of residents," the prime minister said.

"In collaboration with local authorities, we will take every possible measure to support sufferers such as securing food, blankets and other necessary materials, providing medical services, as well as restoring infrastructure such as electricity and water supply," said Abe.

The magnitude-6.5 earthquake that struck at 9:26 pm measured 7 on Japan's seismic scale, the highest possible reading for an earthquake, and marking the first time a temblor in Japan has hit the peak on the scale since the devastating quake in Tohoku in 2011 that along with an ensuing tsunami killed nearly 16,000 people.

The town of Mashiki, home to more than 32,600 people in Kumamoto Prefecture, in southern Kyushu, was where the quake hit hardest and was logged at an intensity of 7, although the Japan Meteorological Agency did not issue a tsunami warning.

The shallow quake which originated at a depth of around 11 kilometers and was followed by 123 aftershocks according to the weather agency on Friday morning, some measuring in the upper six range on Japan's scale, left nine people dead. Three of the deceased were men and the four were women, local officials have confirmed.

They said those who were killed were from the town of Mashiki and also from the Higashi Ward of Kumamoto City. Local police and firefighters in the prefecture said that 20 houses had collapsed as a result of the quake, particularly in and around Mashiki, leaving people trapped beneath rubble and fallen debris.

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