- No reports of damage to nearby operating nuclear reactors
- Strongest quake felt in Japan since 2011 Tohoku disaster
At least nine people were killed and hundreds injured when a magnitude 6.5 earthquake in southern Japan caused the strongest shaking since the 2011 disaster.
The quake struck in Kumamoto prefecture at 9:26 p.m. local time Thursday at a shallow depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) and was followed by several strong aftershocks, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. More than 750 people were injured, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a televised briefing Friday morning.
Televised footage showed firefighters battling several blazes in the prefecture. "The violent, scary shaking was like nothing I’d ever experienced," Tatsuya Ichino, a disaster planning official at Kumamoto city hall, said by phone.
The benchmark Topix index opened down about 1 percent, while the yen was little changed at 109.37 per dollar as of 9:05 a.m. Construction stocks rose.
There were no reports of damage to Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear reactors, the only operating plants in Japan. The units, located in neighboring Kagoshima, remained in operation after the quake. A bullet train carrying no passengers derailed near Kumamoto station, with aftershocks preventing it from being restored.
The island of Kyushu, where Kumamoto prefecture is located, is a popular destination for domestic and foreign tourists. with famous hot springs and mountain scenery among its attractions. The historic castle of Kumamoto was damaged.
All Nippon Airways Co. canceled two flights from Kumamoto, with all other flights operating as normal. Honda Motor Co. halted production lines at its Kumamoto plant, Bridgestone Corp. closed a factory producing rubber hoses to perform safety checks, and Sony Corp. evacuated a factory as a precaution but said there was no fire or injury. Damage at other companies including Renesas Electronics Corp. and Suntory Holdings Ltd. appeared minimal.
The shaking was at the top of Japan’s seven-point intensity scale, the first time such a level was felt since a huge March 2011 quake triggered a massive tsunami and killed about 16,000 people in northeastern Japan. Power was cut to about 14,500 homes, trains halted and highways closed throughout Kyushu, one of Japan’s four main islands. About 33,000 people were evacuated, public broadcaster NHK said.
The meteorological office warned that strong quakes could hit for a week. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued orders to ministries to gather information and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces dispatched helicopters and 1,600 troops to assist.
A parliamentary debate was suspended to allow Abe to focus on the quake.