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Level of earthquake 'never experienced before': Kumamoto residents

Large cracks are seen on a road following a powerful quake in Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture, on April 14, 2016. (Mainichi)

Kumamoto Prefecture residents described a powerful earthquake that sent people fleeing into streets on the night of April 14, saying they had never felt such shaking before.

"We were hit with a kind of horizontal shaking I've never felt before, throwing books and photographs off the shelves, which I could barely fend off. I heard my daughter screaming in the home. I'd never had such a terrible experience before," said a 76-year-old man in Kumamoto's Nishi Ward, who was sorting out materials in his study at the time the quake struck.

The sudden quake suspended highway traffic in many parts of the Kyushu region, as well as services of Shinkansen bullet trains operated by Kyushu Railway Co. Mobile phone connections were unstable, leaving residents worrying about the safety of their family members, friends and acquaintances.

At a shopping district in Kumamoto's Chuo Ward, walls of buildings collapsed and the streets were crowded with customers who bolted out from restaurants after the powerful temblor. People huddled together every time a strong aftershock hit the area.

"The moment the quake struck, bottles of shochu liquor fell down one after another," a proprietor of a restaurant in Chuo Ward told the Mainichi Shimbun. He sustained a minor injury to his left fingers. An 18-year-old restaurant employee gave a tearful testimony, "Bottles fell from the walls, and after the temblor subsided I found myself seized with fear."

Takehiro Yamashita, 29, an employee at the Nishihara Village Office in Kumamoto Prefecture, where the quake registered a lower 6 on the Japanese intensity scale, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "Strong shaking continued for around 10 to 20 seconds, followed by several aftershocks. The doors of the refrigerator and a cupboard opened, throwing out everything that was inside. I'd never experienced a temblor like this."

An 80-year-old man who lives with his wife in the Kumamoto Prefecture town of Mashiki commented, "My entire home is in a mess, with the TV set and furniture having fallen over. I rushed out of my house to find most of the roof tiles fallen off nearby residences. The shaking is still going on, even over 30 minutes after the initial temblor."

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