Quake-hit residents of Japan's Kyushu Island queue for water, facing second night away from ruined homes

Evacuees gather at a health center in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture on April 15, 2016.
Evacuees gather at a health center in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture on April 15, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

MASHIKI, JAPAN (AFP) - Shaken residents of a southern Japanese island rocked by a powerful earthquake that left at least nine dead queued for water in rubble-strewn streets on Friday (April 15), with many facing a second night of uncertainty away from their ruined homes.

"We tried our best to take all our belongings and go to a shelter by car," said Mr Haruki Ito, 62, whose house tilted 45 degrees after the quake.

"Our dogs got so scared and hid themselves inside the collapsed house," he told AFP, adding he hoped he and his wife could stay in a local shelter with their pets.

About 24,900 households in Kumamoto prefecture have been left without water, according to the government, a big improvement from an earlier figure of about 57,000.

 
 

But those still without lined up to get water in plastic bottles or tanks as night began to fall on Friday.

Dozens of aftershocks followed the quake, which hit at about 9.26pm local time on Thursday evening, and officials warned the death toll could still rise as rescuers scoured the collapsed structures.

Rescuers continued to search through damaged buildings for possible survivors after the violent quake that also injured hundreds, although officials said the death toll was unlikely to rise significantly.

A rescue team with several search dogs patrolled around half-collapsed houses in the town but no new deaths had been announced for more than 14 hours.

By Friday afternoon, the government said it had confirmed that 881 people were injured, at least 52 seriously. An official from the local Kumamoto disaster agency said at least nine were dead.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a regular press conference that the death toll was unlikely to sharply increase, but that search operations were continuing just to make sure.

He added that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to visit Kumamoto on Saturday to meet victims.

Some 1,600 military personnel were joined by nearly 2,000 police officers and more than 1,300 firefighters to help in the search and rescue efforts, Mr Suga said.