MASHIKI, Japan (AP) — The Latest on earthquakes in Japan (all times local):
Among the buildings destroyed in Japan’s twin earthquakes are parts of the historic Aso Shrine, a picturesque complex with a number of buildings with curved tiled roofs, some of which were flattened on the ground.
A towering gate, known as the “cherry blossom gate” because of its grandeur especially during spring, when cherry trees bloom, had collapsed and is totally damaged.
The shrine, more than 1,700 years old, is designated an “important cultural property” by the Japanese government, and has been a popular tourist spot in Kyushu.
One massive landslide from Japan’s deadly earthquakes tore open a mountainside in Minamiaso village in Kunamato Prefecture all the way from the top to a highway below, destroying a key bridge that could cut off food and other relief transport to the worst hit area.
A trail of brown earth streamed down the hillside like a muddy river.
Another landslide gnawed at a highway, collapsing a house that fell down a ravine and smashed at the bottom. In another part of the village, houses were left hanging precariously at the edge of a huge hole cut open in the earth.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed concerns about secondary disasters as the weather forecast for southwestern Kyushu is showing rain and strong winds later Saturday.
Rainfall can set off mudslides because the soil has already been loosened by quake jitters.
Abe say “daytime today is the big test,” for rescue efforts.
Landslides have already cut off roads and destroyed bridges, imperiling rescue and relief efforts.
At least 29 people have been confirmed dead in two powerful earthquakes that struck southern Kyushu island on Thursday evening and early Saturday, and many more are trapped underneath fallen homes.
Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga says 1,500 people have been injured, 80 of them seriously, in twin earthquakes on southern Kyushu island.
Suga did not mention the death toll, which local officials put at 29, saying the numbers are likely to rise.
He says the military will be boosted to 20,000 for rescue efforts. Police and firefighters are also being ordered to the southwestern region.
In a nationally televised news conference, Suga asked people not to panic.
He says: “Please let’s help each other and stay calm.”
Japanese media are reporting the eruption of Mount Aso, the largest active volcano in Japan located on Kyushu island where twin earthquakes killed at least 29 people, buried houses and set off landslides.
That’s the first eruption in a month.
Smoke is rising about 100 meters (328 feet) in the air, but no damage has been reported.
It’s not immediately clear if there’s a link the seismic activity and the eruption.
Aso is 1,592 meters (5,223 feet) high and consists of five peaks. It’s about 1 ½ hour drive from Kumamoto Prefecture, the epicenter of the quakes.
A Japanese official says the death toll in the second earthquake to hit southern Kyushu island early Saturday has risen to 19.
That’s in addition to 10 people killed in Thursday’s magnitude-6.5 quake.
A fresh earthquake measuring 5.4 has hit southern Kyushu island on Saturday morning, following a 7.3-magnitude quake that killed at least six people overnight.
Kumamoto Prefectural official Tomoyuki Tanaka says the death toll is still unclear, with the fire department reporting a higher number of at least seven.
More than 400 people are reported injured.
Japanese TV news footage showed collapsed and flattened houses, and said people are trapped in buildings.
The Japan Meteorological Agency gave a preliminary reading of magnitude-7.3 for the temblor that struck early Saturday. A magnitude-6.5 quake struck late Thursday, killing 10 people. Aftershocks are rattling various areas in Kyushu, one of Japan’s main four islands.
Police in southern Japan say the second earthquake that struck the same region in 24 hours has killed at least six people.
The magnitude-7.3 quake shook the Kumamoto region at 1:25 a.m. Saturday. On Thursday night, the area was hit by a magnitude-6.5 quake that left 10 dead and more than 800 injured.