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Japan earthquake: 7.1 tremor hits south of country – 24 hours after nine died in separate quake

Published 15/04/2016

This aerial view shows damaged houses in Mashiki town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, Friday, April 15, 2016, a day after a magnitude-6.5 earthquake. (Koji Harada/Kyodo News via AP)
This aerial view shows damaged houses in Mashiki town, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, Friday, April 15, 2016, a day after a magnitude-6.5 earthquake. (Koji Harada/Kyodo News via AP)
A resident walks through the debris after a magnitude-6.5 earthquake in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, Friday, April 15, 2016. More than 100 aftershocks from Thursday night's earthquake continued to rattle the region as businesses and residents got a fuller look at the widespread damage from the unusually strong quake, which also injured about 800 people. (Kyodo News via AP) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 15: A clock stopped at 0:05 is seen in the collapsed house a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. The owner of the house said that the house was damaged more by the aftershock that happened at 0:05. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 15: A boy stands on the collapsed stone fence a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
MASHIKI, JAPAN - APRIL 15: Mobile phones are being charged at the evacuation center a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake at the Mashiki Town Gymnasium on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. As of April 15 morning, at least nine people died in the powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, 2016. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
A man walks next to a sidewalk covered by rubble in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture on April 15, 2016, after a 6.5-magnitude quake struck the southwestern island of Kyushu on April 14. Rescuers searched through rubble for possible survivors on April 15 after a powerful earthquake in southern Japan left at least nine people dead and hundreds injured, though officials said the toll was unlikely to rise dramatically. / AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGIKAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images
A Self-Defense Forces personnel helps a family to pack bottles of water in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture on April 15, 2016, after a 6.5-magnitude quake struck the southwestern island of Kyushu on April 14. Rescuers searched through rubble for possible survivors on April 15 after a powerful earthquake in southern Japan left at least nine people dead and hundreds injured, though officials said the toll was unlikely to rise dramatically. / AFP PHOTO / KAZUHIRO NOGIKAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images

A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.1 struck southern Japan early Saturday, barely 24 hours after a smaller quake hit the same region and killed nine people.

Japanese broadcaster NHK said a number of calls were coming in from residents reporting people being trapped inside houses and buildings.

Image taken from video footage released by the Kumamoto Prefectural Police on April 15, 2016 shows a rescue worker carrying an eight-month-old baby girl after she was pulled from the rubble following an earthquake in Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture. Photo: Kumamoto Prefectural Police/AFP/Getty Images
Image taken from video footage released by the Kumamoto Prefectural Police on April 15, 2016 shows a rescue worker carrying an eight-month-old baby girl after she was pulled from the rubble following an earthquake in Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture. Photo: Kumamoto Prefectural Police/AFP/Getty Images

The quake shook the Kumamoto region at 1.25am on Saturday, and several aftershocks soon followed. Japan's Meteorological Agency issued an advisory for a tsunami up to one metre (three feet) high along the coast west of the epicentre in Kumamoto; the advisory was lifted less than an hour later.

Sirens of patrol vehicles were heard on the background as NHK reported from the hardest-hit town of Mashiki. The asphalt ground outside the town hall had a new crack, apparently made by the latest earthquake.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said no abnormalities were found at the Sendai nuclear plant, where the only two of Japan's 43 operable reactors are online.

Thursday's weaker, magnitude 6.5 earthquake brought down buildings and injured about 800 people, in addition to the nine deaths. The epicentre of Saturday's earthquake was about 12 kilometres (eight miles) north west of Thursday's, and at a depth of about 10 kilometres (six miles), Saturday's quake was more shallow.

It hit residents who were still in shock from the previous night's horrors and had suffered through more than 100 aftershocks in the interim.

On Friday, Yuichiro Yoshikado described the horror of the earthquake striking as he was taking a bath in his Mashiki apartment.

"I grabbed onto the sides of the bathtub, but the water in the tub, it was about 70% filled with water, was going like this," he said, waving his arms, "and all the water splashed out."

"It's as if all control was lost. I thought I was going to die and I couldn't bear it any longer."

Members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces make rice balls at the soup-run operated at the evacuation center a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake at the Mashiki Town Hall on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
Members of the Japan Self-Defense Forces make rice balls at the soup-run operated at the evacuation center a day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake at the Mashiki Town Hall on April 15, 2016 in Mashiki, Kumamoto, Japan. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)

A bright spot broadcast repeatedly on television on Friday was the overnight rescue of an apparently uninjured baby, wrapped in a blanket and carried out of the rubble of a collapsed home.

Police said on Friday that concern about aftershocks was keeping many people from starting the huge task of cleaning up. Since Saturday's quake was bigger, Thursday's was technically a foreshock.

Mr Yoshikado, whose building was undamaged despite the intense shaking, checked the damage at his aunt and uncle's home nearby. Kitchenware was scattered on the floor, and a clock had stopped around 9.26pm, the time of the earthquake. Power and water have yet to be restored, and many in the neighbourhood have yet to return because of the aftershocks.

About 44,000 people stayed in shelters after Thursday's quake.

The dead included five women and four men, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said. One man was in his 20s, and the rest of the victims ranged from their 50s to one woman in her 90s. Eight of the nine victims were from Mashiki.

There were varying reports on the number of injured. The government's chief spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said at least 860 people had been injured, 53 seriously. Kumamoto prefecture tallied 784 injured.

An aerial view shows damaged Kyushu highway in the city of Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture on April 15, 2016, after a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Japan's southwestern island of Kyushu the day before. AFP/Getty Images
An aerial view shows damaged Kyushu highway in the city of Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture on April 15, 2016, after a strong 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Japan's southwestern island of Kyushu the day before. AFP/Getty Images

Mr Suga said 1,600 soldiers had joined the relief and rescue efforts. TV reports showed troops delivering blankets and adult diapers to those in shelters.

With water service cut off in some areas, residents were hauling water from local offices to their homes to flush toilets.

Mr Suga said there were no abnormalities at nearby nuclear facilities. The epicentre was 120 kilometres (74 miles) north east of Kyushu Electric Power Co's Sendai nuclear plant, the only one operating in the country.

Most of Japan's nuclear reactors remain offline following the meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima plant in 2011 after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a huge tsunami.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, Mashiki sits near two faults on Kyushu. The area is also near Mount Aso, a huge, active volcano. JMA officials said the quake was unusually strong for Kyushu.

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