Powerful earthquake in Japan leaves two dead, 45 injured

Rescuers in southwestern Japan searched for trapped residents in collapsed houses after a powerful earthquake struck southwestern Japan yesterday evening, leaving at least two dead and 45 people injured, according to AP reports.

More than 600 people have been admitted to emergency shelters, according to local news reports.

At a press conference late yesterday, a spokesperson for Japan Meteorological Agency warned that relatively strong aftershocks are expected to occur during the next several days. Spokesperson Gen Aoki said people in stricken areas should be prepared for the possible collapse of buildings and landslides.

Japanese Red Cross Kumamoto Hospital said it has admitted or treated 45 people, including five with serious injuries, according to the Associated Press.

The quake hit at 9:26 p.m. in Kumamoto Prefecture, with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4. The Japan Meteorological Agency said there was no danger of a tsunami, but the quake registered the highest level of 7 on the Japanese seismic scale, in the town of Mashiki.

It was the first reported quake with an intensity level of 7 since the deadly March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan. Nearly 16,000 were killed and more than 2,500 remain missing in that disaster.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said at least 19 houses collapsed with an unknown number reported trapped, according to Nippon Television.

“Because of the night darkness, the extent of damage is still unclear,” Suga said, the AP reported.

Japanese television is showing video of scores of people at emergency shelters and collection points in the affected areas. Police received nearly 500 emergency calls in the first hours following the quake.

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