Food biggest problem in quake-hit Japan

  • 18/04/2016
People line up for food and water at an elementary school in Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture (Reuters)
People line up for food and water at an elementary school in Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture (Reuters)

Survivors from a series of deadly earthquakes in southern Japan have spent a cold night in cramped shelters or camped out in fields as 30,000 rescue service personnel rushed to provide food and to search for those still missing.

A 7.3 magnitude tremor struck early on Saturday, killing at least 33 people, a little more than 24 hours after nine people died in another quake in the same area.

More than 1000 people were injured, with widespread damage to houses, roads and bridges, including at least one mountain highway severed in two, concrete tumbling into the valley below.

Factories for major manufacturers including Toyota, Sony and Honda were closed, causing supply chain disruptions around Japan.

Food was in short supply as roads remained cut off by landslides.

"Yesterday, I ate just one piece of tofu and a rice ball. That's all," said the mayor of one of the areas affected.

"What we're most worried about now is food. There's no electricity or water, either."

Of more than 500 quakes hitting Kyushu since Thursday, more than 70 have been at least a four on Japan's intensity scale, strong enough to shake buildings.

Quakes are common in Japan, part of the seismically active "Ring of Fire" which sweeps from the South Pacific islands, up through Indonesia, Japan, across to Alaska and down the west coast of the United States and Central and South America.

At the other end of the ring this weekend, Ecuador's biggest earthquake in decades killed more than 240 people, caused devastation in coastal towns and left an unknown number trapped in ruins. A 6.1 magnitude quake also struck southeast of the Pacific island nation of Tonga, with no immediate reports of damage.

Three nuclear plants in the southern Japanese region were unaffected by the quakes, but the Nuclear Regulation Authority said it will hold an extraordinary meeting on Monday to discuss the disaster.