Close to a quarter of a million people have been evacuated from their homes as the search for survivors goes on after a series of strong earthquakes in southern Japan, Sky News reports. The rescue operation in the worst-affected region, Kumamoto prefecture continues despite deteriorating weather conditions, with strong winds and heavy rain.
Some 25,000 soldiers from Japan’s self-defence forces have been deployed to the area, along with police, firefighters and medics. Saturday morning’s 7.3 magnitude quake has killed at least 33 people, with more than a thousand people injured. Nine others died in Thursday’s tremors.
Travelling towards the epicentre, we saw ambulances and a number of doctors’ cars as volunteer teams arrive from across the country. The military is working to clear access routes through badly-damaged roads. One tunnel has collapsed and bridges have been damaged.
The powerful tremors triggered landslides, tearing great chunks from the mountainside. In places, gaping holes have opened up in the ground. White smoke has been seen rising from the island’s volcano.
We drove past power lines and trees knocked down along the side of the road. In Ozu troops were delivering water from an army truck in a car park. A long queue of people waited in the early morning cold to fill their containers. A total of 422,000 households in this region have no water.
One man, waiting in the long queue with his three-year-old daughter, told us they have been sleeping in their car for four days. This is the first day the water bowser has come. He said they are running low on cough medicine and nappies for the children.
We are told 800 people are sleeping in their cars here. The local community centre has been turned into an emergency shelter. Inside, families sleep on blankets on top of blue tarpaulin, shoes lined up neatly by the side.
We spoke to a man stranded on one side of a collapsed bridge, unable to get back to his home in Minamiaso. He has managed to contact his family and they are safe, but he does not know what has happened to their house.
The town’s gymnasium has also been requisitioned. People are camping amongst the treadmills, sports equipment pushed up against the wall. The manager told us 500 people slept in here last night, another 1,000 outside. They have one rice bowl per person each night.
As we filmed, more military trucks pulled up. One has driven from Osaka – 370 miles away. They hauled out heavy drums and army tents to build a bath facility. There is no running water here. Inside, 86-year-old Teruko Iwasaki showed us the pyjamas she is still wearing underneath her house coat.
She said she was terrified when Saturday’s huge earthquake struck, and that she has never experienced anything like this before. “Arigato, arigato,” she kept repeating to our camera, bowing: “Thank you, thank you.”
She said she thanks God she survived, and thanks everyone who is helping her now.