Daybreak in Japan should reveal the extent of the damage from a magnitude-7.0 earthquake that struck early Saturday on Kyushu island, the same region hit by a 6.2 quake two days earlier.
One person was killed and numerous buildings were damaged, said Kumamoto Prefecture’s disaster management office.
Rescuers scrambled to find survivors. TV Asahi showed crews crawling over a collapsed roof in an attempt to find an elderly couple. An 80-year-old man was pulled from the rubble, TV Asahi said.
The quake caused heavy damage in a wide area in Kyushu, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference Saturday morning. He said 23 cases of people being buried under structures were reported so far.
TV Asahi, a CNN affiliate, reported 192,600 homes lost power in Kyushu.
According to Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency, 7,262 people have sought shelter at 375 centers since Friday in Kumamoto Prefecture.
Tsunami advisory issued
The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the latest quake struck just west-southwest of Kumamoto-shi and about 8 miles south-southeast of Ueki, the epicenter of the late Thursday tremor that left nine dead.
“No question, this is a large and very important earthquake,” said Doug Given, a geophysicist with the USGS. “And it will do a lot of damage.”
The quake prompted the Japan Meteorological Agency to issue a tsunami advisory for coastal regions of Japan on the Ariake Sea and Yatsushiro Sea around 2 a.m. Saturday (1 p.m. ET Friday). Tsunami advisories are issued when the tsunami height is expected to be between 0.2 and 1 meter (0.65 to 3.3 feet). A warning would be for larger tsunamis.
The agency subsequently lifted all tsunami warnings and advisories.
As Given noted, “the four islands of Japan are on the edge of what’s traditionally been known as the ‘Ring of Fire'” — a stretch along parts of the Pacific Ocean prone to volcanoes and earthquakes.
Victor Sardina, a geophysicist in Honolulu, Hawaii, told CNN that the latest quake was about 30 times more powerful than Thursday’s deadly tremor. He predicted “severe, serious implications in terms of damage and human losses.”
The shallow depth of the quake — about 10 kilometers, or 6 miles — and the densely populated area where it struck could prove to be devastating, according to experts.
‘Buildings were swaying and cracking’
“This looks like it’s going to be a very damaging earthquake. I think we can expect that this is going to be far worst” than Thursday’s tremor, said Tom Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center.
Television images showed mostly desolate streets, damaged buildings and shards of broken glass on the streets. Aftershocks as strong as magnitude-5.3 struck in the hours after the quake. In one part of Kumamoto-shi, dozens of people gathered outside in the night, sitting on the street away from buildings, some on blankets.
In short video posted to Instagram, people standing in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven in Kumamoto let out screams following an aftershock.