The second deadly earthquake to strike southern Japan this week killed dozens of people in the early morning hours Saturday as emergency workers flocked to scenes of destruction across the Kumamoto prefecture.
At least 41 people were killed and more than 1,500 injured following a 7.3-magnitude tremor outside the city of Kumamoto, trapping residents nearby under collapsed buildings and causing widespread power outages and water shortages for at least 200,000 people, officials said.
Japanese troops hurried to the region to assist in the recovery operation. As of Sunday, 11 people were still missing and more than 180,000 are temporarily displaced, the Associated Press reported.
Video from the scene showed residents pulled from beneath shattered concrete and mounds of smoking debris as hundreds more huddled in shelters, bracing for possible aftershocks.
On Thursday night, nine people died when a 6.5-magnitude quake struck the same region.
At least 400,000 homes do not have running water and more than 1,000 buildings were damaged by the earthquakes.
“It is unusual but not unprecedented for a larger and more damaging earthquake to follow what was taken to be ‘the main event,'” David Rothery, a professor of planetary geosciences at The Open University in Britain, told the AP.
One Tokai University student who had sought refuge in the school’s gymnasium described the moment when the quake hit to local media.
“I felt strong shaking at first, then I was thrown about like I was in a washing machine,” the student said. “All the lights went out and I heard a loud noise. A lot of gas is leaking and while there hasn’t been a fire, that remains a concern.”
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said nearly 100,000 people had been evacuated from their homes after roughly 200 buildings had been decimated during Saturday’s quake.
Officials also warned of possible mudslides with forecasters predicting heavy rains this weekend.
“The wind is expected to pick up and rain will likely get heavier,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said. “Rescue operations at night will be extremely difficult. It’s a race against time.”