At least nine people were killed after a 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck east of Kumamoto, Japan. More than 850 others were injured, with some 400 being taken to local hospitals, according to public broadcaster NHK.
A man in his 60s and a woman in her 50s have been pronounced dead at a hospital in Kumamoto City. Earlier, two more deaths have also been confirmed: one person was killed after being crushed by a collapsing building, the other died in a fire that broke out after the quake.
More than 850 people have reportedly been injured in the quake with at least 400 being treated at local hospitals, NHK said.
There is currently no information on whether any Russian residents are among the injured, Tass news agency reports, citing the Russian Embassy in Japan.
The quake hit at 9:26 p.m. local time (12:26 GMT), 11 kilometers (7 miles) east of the city of Kumamoto. It had a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles).
An aftershock measuring 5.7 struck the region about 40 minutes after the quake, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. The US Geological Survey (USGS) reported that a separate tremor measuring 5.9 struck a couple hours later.
Mashiko, a village close to the epicenter, suffered the worst damage, with over 20 buildings destroyed and several fires reported. The rescue operations are currently underway, with some 400 defense forces personnel deployed to help look through the debris during the night.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that the government intends “to do our utmost and carry on with life-saving and rescue operations throughout the night.”
Local police said they received reports that several people were trapped under collapsed houses, NHK reported. They also said that several traffic lights lost power after the quake.
“Papers, files, flower vases and everything fell on the floor,” Kasumi Nakamura, an official in the village of Nishihara, located near the epicenter, said.
He said the rattling started small but then grew violent, lasting about 30 seconds.
Some 16,500 households were left without electricity and 38,000 homes had no gas supplies, Reuters reported, citing Japanese Kyushu Electric Power Co Inc. Some high-speed trains were halted as a precaution.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said there were no irregularities at three nuclear plants on the southernmost island of Kyushu and nearby Shikoku.
The USGS put the quake at a 6.0 magnitude.
The Japan Meteorological Agency originally issued a tsunami warning, but later canceled it.[Source: RT]