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Powerful earthquake kills at least 9, topples buildings in Japan

By
Allen Cone and Shawn Price

KUMAMOTO, Japan, April 14 (UPI) -- A powerful preliminary 6.5-magnitude earthquake Thursday on southern Japan's Kumamoto prefecture on Kyushu Island killed at least nine people and is the first high-intensity quake since a magnitude-9.0 temblor five years ago, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

At least 860 people have been injured in the first quake and following aftershocks, with most of the injured coming from the town of Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture, officials said.

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By early Friday, 44,400 people have already been evacuated from their homes, filing 500 shelters in the prefecture. Also electric power, gas and water supplies were cut to thousands of residents to prevent further disasters.

The hundreds of injured people were being treated at three hospitals in Kumamoto City, hospital officials said. More than 20 homes have collapsed and several people are trapped under debris. Hundreds of homes have been damaged.

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"The shaking was so violent I couldn't stand still," said Kumamoto police officer Hironobu Kosaki.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters his government has mobilized police, firefighters and Self-Defense Forces troops to get food, medical support and various good to quake victims.

The earthquake struck at 9:26 p.m. local time. A major aftershock struck the same region at 10:07 p.m., logging an intensity of 6.0-magnitude on the Japanese scale, the Japanese weather agency said. Weaker aftershocks followed and no tsunami warnings were issued.

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Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the damage was still being assessed but several homes collapsed. Nearby nuclear facilities were not affected, Suga said.

The earthquake occurred at a depth of 6.2 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The quake's epicenter was 4.3 miles southwest of Ueki and 385 miles south-southeast of Seoul, South Korea.

JR Kyushu suspended all operations on the Kyushu Shinkansen Line after the quake.

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Kyushu Electric Power Co. reported no abnormalities in its Sendai nuclear plant in the Kagoshima Prefecture.

Shikoku Electric Power Co. said its Ikata nuclear plant, which has been idled, sustained no damage from the latest quake.

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake shook northeastern Japan, unleashing a tsunami.

Four years after the quake, about 230,000 people who lost their homes were still living in temporary housing, Japan's Reconstruction Agency said. More than 16,000 people were killed and 2,500 remain missing. The total damage from the earthquake and tsunami are estimated at $300 billion, according to the Japanese government.

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