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Search for missing in Kumamoto Pref. goes on amid continued quakes

Self-Defense Forces personnel retrieve the body of a landslide victim in Minamiaso, Kumamoto Prefecture, on the morning of April 19, 2016. (Mainichi)

A woman was found in cardiopulmonary arrest at the site of a landslide in the quake-hit village of Minamiaso, Kumamoto Prefecture, on April 19, bringing the total number of dead in the series of earthquakes that began on April 14 to 45, while eight people remain missing.

At the landslide site at the Takanodai housing complex in Minamiaso, some 100 Self Defense Force (SDF) personnel resumed digging through dirt and debris with both heavy equipment and by hand on April 19. At about 8:30 a.m. SDF troops gathered at a spot near the remains of a house that had stood along the edge of the collapsed slope, and they retrieved the woman's body around an hour later.

Two people were found and confirmed dead in Minamiaso on April 18, one being identified as a missing 42-year-old man from Higashikagawa, Kagawa Prefecture.

As search efforts continue, so too does the series of earthquakes that began with a magnitude-6.5 temblor on the night of April 14. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), as of 10 a.m. on April 19 there had been 603 temblors rating a 1 or more on the Japanese 7-point seismic intensity scale in Kumamoto and Oita prefectures since the first quake. Those include a M-5.8 earthquake that hit Minamiaso at about 8:41 p.m. on April 18, and the JMA believes that seismic activity is re-intensifying in the area.

Earthquake survivors are seen at an evacuation center in an elementary school in Minamiaso, Kumamoto Prefecture, on April 19, 2016. (Mainichi)

Meanwhile, the city of Kumamoto announced on April 19 that a 51-year-old woman who had been sleeping in a car due to the earthquakes had died of so-called "economy class syndrome," or blood clots that form in veins deep in the legs due to prolonged inactivity. The blood clots can then be carried to the lungs where they may block blood vessels and cause a pulmonary embolism. Symptoms include chest pains and shortness of breath. The deceased woman was already in cardiopulmonary arrest when she arrived at hospital.

The Mainichi Shimbun has discovered that at least 23 people in the city have been taken to the hospital with suspected economy class syndrome since the outbreak of the disaster. Of those, at least three are in serious condition.

According to Niigata University medical school lecturer Kazuhiko Hanzawa, at least 11 people had pulmonary embolisms after sleeping in their cars in the wake of the 2004 Chuetsu earthquake in central Niigata Prefecture. Six of them died. All the cases occurred from two to seven days after the quake.

Earthquake evacuees carry bedding to cars parked on an athletics field in Minamiaso, Kumamoto Prefecture, on April 19, 2016. (Mainichi)

Those staying in crowded evacuation shelters without much room to move around must also beware of economy class syndrome. According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, people who have been treated for blood clots in the past, those who are overweight, seniors, and pregnant women are especially vulnerable. Keeping sufficiently hydrated can help avoid the condition.

There are apparently many evacuees who have cut down on their water consumption due to worries over toilet facilities. However, dehydration allows blood clots to form more easily.

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