Japan hit by second big quake in less than 24 hours
A SECOND powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.1 has struck southern Japan, barely 24 hours after a smaller quake hit the same region and killed nine people.
The Japanese Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami alert for slight sea level changes in Ariake and Yatsushiro seas but has since lifted it.
There were no immediate reports of casualties in the Saturday quake though there were several reports of damage, including some collapsed buildings and cracked roads.
It follows a magnitude 6.2 earthquake which struck the island of Kyushu on Thursday evening, killing at least nine people.
The quake hit at 9.26pm local time seven miles east from the town of Mashiki.
The dead included five women and four men. One man was was in his 20s, and the rest of the victims ranged from their 50s to one woman in her 90s. Eight of the nine victims were from Mashiki.
The government's chief spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said at least 860 people had been injured, 53 seriously. Kumamoto prefecture tallied 784 injured.
A further 44,000 people were forced to stay in shelters overnight after buildings collapsed.
Power and water were yet to be restored on Friday and many are frightened to return to their homes because of the aftershocks.
According to Mr Suga, 1,600 soldiers had joined the relief and rescue efforts. TV reports showed troops delivering blankets and adult diapers to those in shelters.
One resident, Yuichiro Yoshikado, described the moment the walls began to shake as he was taking a bath in his apartment.
He said: "It's as if all control was lost, I thought I was going to die and I couldn't bear it any longer.
"I grabbed onto the sides of the bathtub, but the water in the tub, it was about 70 percent filled with water, was going like this," he said waving his arms, "and all the water splashed out."
Mr Suga said there were no reported abnormalities at the nearby nuclear plant.
The epicentre of Thursday night's earthquake was 120km (74 miles) northeast of Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai nuclear plant - which is currently the only operating plant of its kind in the country.
The Sendai plant was reopened in August last year, four years after all nuclear power production was suspended by the Japanese government following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011.
A magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit the Tohoku prefecture on 11 March and triggered a tsunami which led to the meltdown of the Fukushima plant.
At least 15,000 people died in the disaster and many have still not been able to return to their homes four years on.
Additional reporting by agencies