Japan quakes kill at least 39
As the death toll continued to rise from two earthquakes that struck Japan within two days — killing 39 and injuring at least 1,500 — the country had dispatched 20,000 army troops and other rescuers to find and save residents trapped under rubble as rains and mudslides pummelled affected areas.
The latest death toll from Saturday’s quake that shook the Kumamoto region on the southwestern island of Kyushu was 22. On Thursday night, Kyushu was also hit by a quake that left 10 dead.
Of the 1,500 people injured, 80 of them had serious injuries, said chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga. Nearly 91,000 people were forced from their homes.
Officials said 400,000 households were in need of drinking water after water systems failed and 200,000 homes were without electricity.
Poor weather severely complicated rescue and recovery efforts as intense rain created landslides in rural areas. Landslides had already cut off roads and destroyed bridges, slowing down rescuers.
A massive landslide tore open a mountainside on Saturday in Minamiaso village in Kunamato Prefecture from the top to a highway below, destroying a key bridge that could cut off food and other relief transport to the worst hit area, according to a news agency.
A trail of brown earth streamed down the hillside like a muddy river. Another landslide gnawed at a highway, collapsing a house that fell down a ravine and smashed at the bottom. In another part of the village, houses were left hanging at the edge of a huge hole open in the earth.
“Daytime today is the big test” for rescue efforts, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, citing strong winds and more rain in the forecast for Saturday.