Damage and devastation following Japan quake


Some buildings crumbled and others caught fire in the aftermath of last night's big earthquake in Japan.

The 6.5-magnitude tremor rocked the southwestern Kumamoto Prefecture just after 9:30pm (local time).

Rescuers saved a small baby, but others weren't so lucky, with at least nine people dead and hundreds more injured.

As daylight emerged, so too did the extent of the damage -- not even the historic Kumamoto Castle was immune.

Rosalie Alter-Shaw lives just 10 minutes' drive from the earthquake's epicentre and says it was the most intense quake she's ever felt.

Originally from Palmerston North, the 17-year-old has only been in Japan two weeks, on an exchange programme.

Amazingly, her house didn't suffer any damage as her host family was well prepared.

"Because Japanese people are so used to this, they have many protocols including that we have an alarm on our house which started saying, 'This is an earthquake, this is an earthquake -- please get under the table'."

Local media says 11,000 homes are without power and nearly 60,000 without water.

Around 45,000 people have been evacuated, with disruptions to public transport and schools.

"In the last 24 hours there've been like 100 quakes," says Kirk Masden from Kumamoto Gakuen University.

"But in the 25 years that I've been here, I can barely remember when I've felt an earthquake."

Mr Masden runs the international student programme at the university and says locals will be supporting each other.

"I think culturally, people are fairly well prepared, but when it comes right down to it, individuals react differently."

The Japanese community in New Zealand is also watching closely.

"New Zealanders, I think, feel a real empathy with the Japanese people," says Stephen Duxfield, president of the Japanese Society.

"We do care and we are here if there's any way we can help."

More aftershocks are expected.