KUMAMOTO -- Following a magnitude-6.5 temblor that struck on the night of April 14, and a magnitude-7.3 earthquake that hit in the wee hours of April 16, total quake fatalities reached 41 as of the evening of April 16.
According to Kumamoto Prefectural Police and local municipal governments, in the prefectural village of Nishihara, five people were killed when homes collapsed in the temblors. In the town of Kashima, three men between their 60s and 80s died when their homes crumbled. In Kumamoto's Minami Ward, at least three people died, including a man in his 60s whose body was found in a collapsed residence. Meanwhile, at around 3:30 a.m. on April 16, a fire broke out at an apartment in the prefectural city of Yatsushiro, from which a body was later recovered. Whether the fire was linked to the quakes is unknown.
In the village of Minamiaso, a woman and man died when their home was buried by a landslide. Six apartment buildings in the village that housed students attending Tokai University's Aso campus were also destroyed, killing a male and a female student. The first floor of Green Heights, an apartment building in the Kawayo district where many of the university's students lived, was crushed. Voices from inside cried for help as firefighters and other emergency workers continued rescue efforts.
Tomoyuki Washizu, 22, a fourth-year student at Tokai University's School of Agriculture, was trapped under the rubble. His father rushed to the apartment building from his own home in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture, but his son had already been recovered and taken to the hospital. Hospital officials contacted the father to tell him that his son was safe.
Tokai University's Aso campus is home to both the school's Undergraduate School of Agriculture and the graduate school. According to the university's website, some 990 students were registered there as of April. Of these, 83 percent commuted from residences away from their families, and 56 buildings -- including apartment buildings and boarding houses -- were concentrated to the south of the campus. The majority of the buildings were wooden two-story structures.
"Most of the boarding houses in the area have suffered damage," a 65-year-old woman who ran one of the boarding houses said. "My house also collapsed, but the students that live at my place came looking for me, and I was able to get out." Many of the students have evacuated to the schoolyard of a nearby elementary school, she added.
Receiving news of the damage, officials at Tokai University set up an emergency headquarters on the morning of April 16, and are scrambling to confirm the safety of the school's students and the extent of the damage. "We just pray that our students are safe," one university staffer said.
The voice of a 51-year-old woman who also lives in the Kawayo district trembled as she said, "The Aso Ohashi bridge nearby completely disappeared. I think the landslide must've taken it down. I've heard that some people are buried alive, and I hope that they're rescued somehow."
As of 7 a.m. on April 16, the number of residents evacuated from their homes in Kumamoto Prefecture as a result of the earthquakes was 68,911, up significantly from 7,262 the previous day.