Powerful earthquake hits south Japan, collapsing houses

World Today

A woman collects fallen dishes at a restaurant after an earthquake in Kumamoto, southern Japan, Thursday, April 14, 2016. (Kyodo News via AP)

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 struck southern Japan on Thursday, collapsing walls and a number of houses. There were no immediate reports of casualties but a tsunami is not expected.

One aftershock measuring 5.7 struck about 40 minutes later, according to Japan’s Meteorological Agency.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that damage was being assessed. A number of houses have collapsed, but there was no abnormality at nearby nuclear facilities, Suga said.

“There was a ka-boom and the whole house violently shook sideways,” Takahiko Morita, a resident in Mashiki, a town at the epicenter, said during a telephone interview with NHK TV. “Furniture and bookshelves fell down, books were all over the floor.”

Morita said there was no power outage in his neighborhood but the water supply was cut off. Some houses and walls collapsed, he said.

Keisukei Urata, an official at nearby Uki city, said he was driving home when the quake struck at 9:26 p.m.

He also said he saw some walls around houses collapsing.

Kasumi Nakamura, an official in the village of Nishihara near the epicenter, said that the rattling started modestly and grew violent, lasting about 30 seconds.

“Papers, files, flower vases and everything fell on the floor,” he told NHK. He said there were aftershocks.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the quake’s preliminary magnitude at 6.2 and said it was 23 kilometers (14 miles) deep. It said there’s a low likelihood of casualties but some damage is possible.

Footage on NHK showed a signboard hanging from the ceiling at its local bureau violently shaking. File cabinets rattled, books, files and papers rained down to the floor, and one employee appeared to have fallen off a chair, while others slid underneath their desks to protect their heads.