Death Toll Soars in Japan Quakes

Mudslides threaten to add to misery
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 16, 2016 7:48 AM CDT
Toll Hits 32 in Japan Quakes
An "SOS" sign is written on the grounds of an elementary school in Aso, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan Saturday, April 16, 2016.    (Muneyuki Tomari)

Army troops and other rescuers rushed Saturday to save scores of trapped residents after a pair of strong earthquakes in southwestern Japan killed at least 41 people, injured about 1,500, and left hundreds of thousands without electricity or water. Rainfall is forecast to start pounding the area soon, threatening to further complicate the relief operation and set off more mudslides in isolated rural towns, where people were waiting to be rescued from collapsed homes, the AP reports. Officials say the death toll is at least 32 from the magnitude-7.3 quake that shook the Kumamoto region on the island of Kyushu early Saturday. Nine died in a magnitude-6.5 quake that hit the same area Thursday night

Japanese media reported that nearly 200,000 homes are without electricity, and that drinking water systems have also failed in the area. TV video showed people huddled in blankets, sitting or lying down shoulder-to-shoulder on the floors of evacuation centers. An estimated 400,000 households were without running water. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed concern about secondary disasters as forecasters predicted rain and strong winds later in the day. With the soil already loosened by the quakes, rainfall can set off mudslides. "Daytime today is the big test" for rescue efforts, Abe said. Landslides have already cut off roads and destroyed bridges, slowing down rescuers. (More Japan stories.)

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