Japan Earthquake: Death Toll Rises To 29, More Than 1,500 People Injured

Japan is no stranger to catastrophic earthquakes. However, even they might not have been prepared to face two large earthquakes within the span of two days. Two powerful earthquakes that hit the country a day apart have left more than 29 people injured and nearly 1,500 people injured, CBS News reports. The death toll is expected to rise as several hundreds are still feared trapped under flattened homes and buildings across the Kumamoto Prefecture, the worst affected region.

Rescue efforts post the earthquakes continued unabated on Saturday. Thousands of people were seen thronged inside emptied gymnasiums and schools that have been transformed into temporary shelters for the displaced. The rescue efforts have been hampered after the region experienced moderate rainfall following the earthquake. Meteorologists have forecast further heavy rains for the next few days. According to reports, there is a possibility of mudslides complicating the relief operation further because of the rains.

Japan earthquakes
Police officers search for people trapped in their home in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, Friday (AP Photo/Koji Ueda)

According to Tomoyuki Tanaka, a senior official from the Kumamoto Prefecture, the death toll was climbing by the hour. He said that the second earthquake which he said measured 7.3 on the Richter scale took 19 lives. The earthquake that happened one day earlier measured 6.5 on the Richter scale and left 10 people dead – taking the total death toll from the two earthquakes to 29. Meanwhile the Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan, Yoshihide Suga said that 1,500 people have been injured, 80 of them seriously. The two earthquakes have left more than 70,000 people homeless.

According to reports from Japanese media houses, more than 200,000 homes have been left without electricity following the twin earthquakes. They add that people are left without access to drinking water since the water supply system has failed in several places. Japanese troops numbering more than 20,000 individuals have been called in to aid in the rescue efforts. They are joined by volunteers and members from local firefighting and police services.

Japan earthquake destroyed home
Yuichiro Yoshikado, a Mashiki resident, helps to clean up his relative’s house in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan (AP Photo/Koji Ueda)

The two major earthquakes were followed by several aftershocks. On Saturday morning, a 5.4 magnitude earthquake shook the area. Apart from this major aftershock, several smaller earthquakes were felt by local residents throughout the day. According to experts, the 6.5 magnitude earthquake that preceded the larger 7.3 magnitude quake was a foreshock. The Japan Meteorological Agency confirmed that all the earthquakes were quite shallow with the epicenter just six miles beneath the ground. Shallow earthquakes tend to be more destructive that result in more severe shaking and damage.

Meanwhile, CalTech seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones confirmed that the smaller 6.5 magnitude foreshock could have triggered the larger earthquake. The epicenter of the second earthquake was just 8 miles from the one that preceded it. While it is not normal for a second earthquake to be larger than the one that preceded it, on rare occasions, it does happen.

“About five to 10 percent of the time, the earthquake that is triggered gets bigger than the first one and then we change the name and call the first one the foreshock and the other the main shock. It’s always possible for every earthquake that it will trigger something larger. The space and time we are currently in is the most dangerous in that particular region.”

In fact, she went on to warn that there remains a 50 percent chance that a magnitude 6 earthquake could hit the region in the next few days. She, however, added that the chances of another earthquake drops by more than 95 percent, three days after the main quake.

[AP Photo/Koji Ueda]