Rescuers Race For Survivors After Second Earthquake Rocks South Japan – 11 People Still Missing

As of yesterday, eleven people remain missing in Southern Japan after a second deadly earthquake struck, killing at least 41 people. Eight of the eleven missing people are reportedly from the small village of Minamiaso according to Ms Shiori Yatabe, an official at the Kumamoto prefecture crisis management department.

Thousands of rescuers from the U.S. and Japan have joined forces to race for survivors as the clock ticks. Rescuers have spread out across the rocky terrain to search for the remaining people and helicopters have been called in to help according to Today Online.

The U.S. has about 50,000 troops spread out across Japan already through the Air Force, Navy and Marine services. The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is grateful for the help offered by the U.S. in the race for survivors and relief.

We are extremely grateful, and we would like to coordinate quickly and have the emergency relief be transported in as soon as possible.

In a Sunday morning press briefing, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “we’re racing against the clock… will provide more personnel if necessary.”

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Aerial footage taken by Japanese TV crews showed rescuers going through clusters of destroyed buildings searching for survivors who are trapped in the wreckage.

Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, told reporters the rescuers were focusing on the town of Minamiaso as of yesterday.

“In Minamiaso, where the damage is concentrated, there may still be people trapped under collapsed buildings, so we are focusing our attention and rescue and search efforts in this area… We will do all that we can,” he said.

Minamiaso is south-west of the largest active volcano in Japan, Mount Aso, which stands at 1,592 meters (0.9 miles) high.

The two earthquakes, Thursdays at magnitude 6.2 and Saturdays at magnitude 7.3, brought down bridges, homes, buildings, damaged Kumamoto Castle, cut power, and caused landslides. The first earthquake took nine lives, the second at least 20 lives; the race for survivors is still on.

More than 400 aftershocks were felt in Kumamoto, a city with a population of 740,000, and other parts of the south-western islands of Kyushu, raising concerns for mudslides. The 400 aftershocks felt so far are making the race for survivors difficult and slow.

“I feel every aftershock, it’s swaying here every hour.” said Osamu Yoshizumi, the senior chief of international affairs in Kumamoto. Yoshizumi was working from the city hall building in Kumamoto when the first earthquake struck.

The first earthquake was very big, we thought it was the big one.

Little did residents know that the initial earthquake on Thursday was only a “fore-shock” to the second one on Saturday that took more than double the amount of lives and left thousands of people seeking shelter and refuge after being left with no running water or power.

According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, 80,000 homes in Kumamoto still did not have electricity yesterday and more than 180,000 people have sought shelter.

Mr Megumi Kudo, 51, lined up for water outside a community center that was turned into a shelter in Aso city. “Without water and electricity, we can’t do anything. Without the TV on, we can’t even get information about disaster relief operations…We can’t take a bath, not even a shower.” He said.

Another local resident who managed to survive the two earthquakes, Mr Tokio Miyamoto, 75, said he is too afraid to sleep in his home in case another earthquake strikes.

“It’s a hassle, but it’s too scary to be alone,” he said. Miyamoto added that there was not enough food at the evacuation centers, and each person was only given a couple of rice balls for each meal.

The Kumamoto government has opened more than 100 evacuation centers for residents and is handing out food, water and blankets but the resources are being quickly used up as residents who still have a home are too frightened to return.

Matt Rivers from CNN International reported that the aftershocks are creating anxiety among rescuers still searching for survivors and residents.

“…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.” he said.

Japan’s earthquakes by the numbers:

Deaths from Thursday’s earthquake: nine people

Deaths from Saturday’s earthquake: 32 people

Total deaths recorded: 41 people

Total injuries recorded: 968 people

Evacuated people: More than 91,700 people

Homes totally destroyed: 90 homes

Homes damaged: 775 homes

Timeline:

  • Thursday at 9:26 p.m.: 6.2-quake about 4.3 miles from the city of Ueki
  • Friday at 12:03 a.m.: 6.0-quake hits about 3.7 miles east of Uto.
  • Saturday at 1:25 a.m.: 7.0-quake hits about 0.6 miles from Kumamoto-shi.

Sources: Kumamoto Prefecture’s disaster management office; USGS.

[Photo via Wikipedia]