Japan earthquakes: Dozens killed as aftershocks slow rescue efforts
Mashiki, Japan – Like many buildings in Mashiki town, Kiyomi Matsuoka’s wooden house withstood Thursday’s quake. But not the magnitude-7.0 one that mercilessly hit two days later.
“This is surreal,” said Matsuoka, who returned to look at the rubble that was once her house and the hair salon business her family ran.
Her 80-year-old father insisted on staying with the family home — barely managing to claw out of the debris when Saturday’s quake hit and toppled the house in its entirety.
It was a miracle, she said, he came out alive at all.
Tearing up as she spoke, she said she was determined to rebuild business in Mashiki, where three generations of her family had been.
“We have been running this business right here in this town over 40 years,” she said. “I will rebuild our business here no matter what.
The quakes left 1,037 people injured, according to the disaster management office.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described the search for survivors amid piles of rubble as a “race against the clock,” noting bad weather, continuing aftershocks and the threat of landslides made a dire situation worse.
At least 23 people are buried inside buildings, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
Seismic activity is continuing in Kumamoto and Oita prefectures with no sign of subsiding, said Gen Aoki, the head of Japan’s Meteorological Agency. Kumamoto Prefecture continues to experience aftershocks, with at least 165 so far.
Aoki warned of further building collapses and landslides from rainfall that has loosened the surrounding soil.
About 25,000 Japanese troops have been sent to help with rescue efforts, along with six planes and nine ships to deliver food, blankets and all emergency necessities.
One of the 180,000 people who fled to an evacuation center, the smile on 61-year-old Yoshitada Shimamura’s face hides the trauma he’s just experienced.
But he says he’s just got to forget about what happened to his home, now completely gone.
He’s happy to have excavated a small gas canister from the debris, which will allow him to cook warm food for himself and fellow refugees, he says.
Food aid at evacuation centers is getting thin as the damage area widens.
“There wasn’t actually enough food for everyone, which was the only problem,” Samuel Borer a U.S. citizen living in Kumamoto, said at an elementary school used as a shelter.
“Most of the food went to the elderly and children first.”
Television images and photos showed empty shelves at supermarkets and stores, leaving many evacuees to line up for food and water at shelters.
“You’re seeing people assigned here from one of two sorts of tracks,” he said. “On the one hand, people who had their homes destroyed so they have nowhere to go. (But) the reality is that most people inside this evacuation shelter here are afraid to go home. They’re not sure that maybe there might be another aftershock.”
The tremors caused extensive damage, overturning cars, splitting roads and triggering a landslide as shown by TV Asahi footage. Television images showed flattened houses, shards of broken glass and debris piled onto the streets. Masses of people huddled outside.
Power outages have affected 761,000 households while about 396,000 homes are without water.
“When the second earthquake came everything shook and I thought I might die,” said Taiki Hishida, 38, who evacuated with his wife and two young children to a crowded shelter.
Noel Vincent felt both earthquakes.
“This extremely intense shaking began,” he said. “And whereas the first earthquake was more of an up-and-down type of shaking, this was a side-to-side shaking … it was very intense and I feared for my life.”