Twin quakes topples buildings in Japan, kill 41
41 people were killed after a powerful earthquake hit southern Japan, toppling homes, sparking fires and injuring hundreds, officials said, as rescuers scrambled to find residents feared trapped in rubble.
Two powerful earthquakes a day apart shook southwestern Japan, killing at least 41 people, trapping many others beneath flattened homes and sending thousands of residents to seek refuge in gymnasiums and hotel lobbies.
The exact number of casualties remained unclear as rescue efforts continue to unfold.
Kumamoto Prefectural official Tomoyuki Tanaka said the death tolls were climbing by the hour, with the latest standing at 19 from Saturday's magnitude-7.3 quake that shook the Kumamoto region on the southwestern island of Kyushu at 1:25 a.m.
A series of aftershocks ensued, including a magnitude-5.4 Saturday morning.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said that the quake that struck earlier Saturday may be the main quake, with the earlier one a precursor.
The quakes' epicenters have been relatively shallow - about 10 kilometers (6 miles) - and close to the surface, resulting in more severe shaking and damage.
Japanese media reported that nearly 200,000 homes were without electricity.
Tens of thousands of people fled their homes after the 6.5-magnitude quake struck the southwestern island of Kyushu, buckling roads and leaving lumps of broken concrete strewn in the streets.
Drinking water systems had also failed in the area. Japanese TV news footage showed people huddled in blankets, quietly, shoulder to shoulder, on floors of evacuation centers.
"I felt quite strong jolts, which I had never experienced before," Shunsuke Sakuragi, a prefectural official in the city of Kumamoto, said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, in an emergency news conference early Saturday, said more than 300 calls came in to the Kumamoto police and another 100 to police in nearby Oita, seeking help and reporting people trapped or buried underneath debris.
As the death toll rose through the night, an eight-month-old baby girl was pulled from the rubble alive and unharmed, public broadcaster NHK reported.
In the town of Mashiki, scores of people gathered in front the town hall following the powerful shaking, some in tears while others wrapped themselves in blankets to ward off the nighttime chill.
Train services were temporarily halted after Thursday's earthquake and a super fast bullet train derailed -- luckily while it was empty -- said Yusuke Nanri, a spokesman for operator JR Kyushu.