Japan earthquake: ‘I thought I was going to die’

Police rescue team members search through damaged houses to check possibility of trapped people in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, Friday, April 15, 2016. Aftershocks rattled communities in southern Japan as businesses and residents got a fuller look Friday at the widespread damage from an unusually strong overnight earthquake. (AP Photo/Koji Ueda)
Police rescue team members search through damaged houses to check possibility of trapped people in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, Friday, April 15, 2016. Aftershocks rattled communities in southern Japan as businesses and residents got a fuller look Friday at the widespread damage from an unusually strong overnight earthquake. (AP Photo/Koji Ueda)

MASHIKI, Japan (AP) — A still shocked resident from a town in southern Japan recounted his terror the previous night as he examined the damage Friday from a powerful earthquake that brought down buildings and left nine people dead.

“It’s as if all control was lost, I thought I was going to die and I couldn’t bear it any longer,” said Yuichiro Yoshikado, who was taking a bath in his apartment in the hardest-hit town of Mashiki.

“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.”

Children walk past a house collapsed by a magnitude-6.5 earthquake in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, Friday, April 15, 2016. The powerful earthquake struck Thursday night, knocking down houses and buckling roads. (Koji Harada/Kyodo News via AP) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
Children walk past a house collapsed by a magnitude-6.5 earthquake. (Koji Harada/Kyodo News via AP) 

More than 100 aftershocks from Thursday night’s magnitude-6.5 earthquake continued to rattle the region as businesses and residents got a fuller look at the widespread damage from the unusually strong quake, which also injured about 800 people.

The quake struck near the city of Kumamoto on the island of Kyushu, about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) southwest of Tokyo. Mashiki is on Kumamoto’s eastern border, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the city’s center.

Rescue workers combed through wreckage to make sure there were no more trapped people, said Shotaro Sakamoto, a Kumamoto prefecture official. Concern about aftershocks was keeping many people from starting the huge task of cleaning up, police said.

Yoshikado, whose building was undamaged despite the intense shaking, was checking the damage at his aunt and uncle’s home nearby.

Kitchenware was scatted on the floor, and a clock had stopped around 9:26 p.m., the time of the earthquake. Power and water have yet to be restored, and many in the neighborhood have yet to return because of the aftershocks.

Residents stand near housing complex destroyed by Thursday's earthquake in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan, Friday, April 15, 2016. The powerful earthquake struck Thursday night, knocking down houses and buckling roads. (Yu Nakajima/Kyodo News via AP) JAPAN OUT, MANDATORY CREDIT
Residents stand near housing complex destroyed by Thursday’s earthquake in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan. (Yu Nakajima/Kyodo News via AP) 

“Everyone in Kumamoto is still in a panic,” Yoshikado said. “We see in the news phrases like ‘Major earthquake in Kumamoto,’ or ‘The Kumamoto Quake,’ but it just doesn’t seem real. It feels like something that would happen somewhere else.”

About 44,000 people stayed in shelters overnight, and Sakamoto said it was difficult to predict how many would return Friday night.

The deads included five women and four men were killed, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency said. One man was is 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.

There were varying reports on the number of injured. The government’s chief spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said at least 860 people had been injured, 53 seriously. Kumamoto prefecture tallied 784 injured.

Suga said 1,600 soldiers had joined the relief and rescue efforts. TV reports showed troops delivering blankets and adult diapers to those in shelters.

The damage was widespread, with building debris spilling onto streets and deep cracks in the roads. Huge boulder-like rocks tumbled from the walls of historic Kumamoto castle, which was closed to the public Friday.

A bright spot broadcast repeatedly on television was the overnight rescue of an apparently uninjured baby, wrapped in a blanket and carried out of the rubble of a collapsed home.

With water service cut off in some areas, residents were hauling water from local offices to their homes to flush toilets.

Suga said there were no abnormalities at nearby nuclear facilities. The epicenter was 120 kilometers (74 miles) northeast of Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear plant, the only one operating in the country.

Most of Japan’s nuclear reactors remain offline following the meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima plant in 2011 after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a huge tsunami.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, Mashiki sits near two faults on Kyushu. The area is also near Mount Aso, a huge, active volcano. JMA officials said the quake was unusually strong for Kyushu.

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