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41 dead, up to 7 missing in Kumamoto quakes; 95,000 people evacuated

Rescue crews search for people at the site of a landslide that hit a small hotel in Minamiaso, Kumamoto Prefecture, on April 16, 2016. (Mainichi)

A series of strong earthquakes that hit Kumamoto Prefecture starting on the night of April 14 have killed a total of 41 people, while at least seven are reported missing.

The magnitude-7.3 earthquake that struck the Kumamoto district of Kumamoto Prefecture at around 1:25 a.m. on April 16 registered as high as an upper-6 on Japan's 7-point seismic intensity scale, killing at least 32 people in the prefecture. The April 14 earthquake killed nine people, and the total number of casualties in the two major tremors and hundreds of aftershocks has reached 41.

According to Kumamoto Prefectural Police and other sources, up to seven people are reported missing in four areas in the village of Minamiaso. The search for the missing was called off on the night of April 16 to avoid secondary casualties, as it had started to rain in the area in the evening. Police and other rescue teams were to resume the search in the early morning of April 17.

Meanwhile, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga reported during a news conference on the night of April 16 that the total number of evacuees had reached some 90,000 in Kumamoto Prefecture, 4,465 in Oita Prefecture, 818 in Fukuoka Prefecture and 64 in Miyazaki Prefecture.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the focus of the April 16 earthquake was 12 kilometers deep, and the magnitude was equivalent to the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. The agency sees the magnitude-6.5 earthquake that first struck Kumamoto at around 9:26 p.m. on April 14 and subsequent tremors as "foreshocks," and the April 16 earthquake as the "main shock."

Following the main shock, multiple earthquakes centering in the Kumamoto and Aso districts in Kumamoto Prefecture, as well as central Oita Prefecture, struck almost simultaneously. This caused further damage in Kumamoto, Fukuoka and Oita prefectures.

As of 9 p.m. on April 16, a total of 329 earthquakes measuring 1 on the seismic intensity scale or stronger had been recorded in the area since the initial temblor two days earlier.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism reported that 15 landslides and mudslides were confirmed in Kumamoto Prefecture as of 1:30 p.m. on April 16.

According to calculations by the Kumamoto Prefectural Government, 978 people in the prefecture were injured in the earthquakes, 184 of them seriously. A total of 76 students at all levels of education were among the injured, eight of them seriously, according to the education ministry. Meanwhile, a total of 43 people were injured in Fukuoka, Saga, Oita and Miyazaki prefectures.

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