WASHINGTON – The United States is prepared to extend support to Japan following a series of powerful earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture and other areas in the country's southwest, State Department spokesman John Kirby said Friday. "We stand ready" to provide any and all assistance that the Japanese government may require, though Washington has yet to receive such a request from Tokyo, Kirby told reporters. A series of strong earthquakes since late Thursday, including one with a preliminary magnitude of 7.3 -- an equivalent to the 1995 quake that devastated Kobe and claimed over 6,000 lives -- continued to jolt a wide area of the Kyushu region, centering on Kumamoto Prefecture, preventing Japanese authorities from grasping the scale of damage yet such as the number of victims and building collapses. The U.S. government is monitoring the situation surrounding the devastation caused by the quakes and is "in touch with authorities in Japan," Kirby said. The U.S. government and military mounted large-scale disaster relief "Operation Tomodachi" after the Tohoku region was hit by mega-earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
At least nine people were dead and more than 1,000 injured Friday as Japan began to recover from a devastating earthquake that hit the island of Kyushu the day before. Several towns were still without water and power after the Thursday temblor, which the United States Geological Survey measured at magnitude-6.2 but the Japanese Meteorological Agency put at 6.5. Rescue efforts were further complicated by the more than 120 aftershocks had rocked the area as of Friday morning, the Japan Times reported. "This is an earthquake that is going to shake for a long time," meteorologist Chad Myers told CNN, adding that the aftershocks predicted through next week could make the property damage even worse. "The buildings that were damaged in the original shock have now been redamaged or reshaken.
An earthquake has struck southern Japan, injuring several people seriously and possibly leaving others trapped beneath collapsed houses, authorities say. No tsunami warning was issued after the magnitude 6.4 quake. It struck at 21:26 (12:26 GMT) east of Kumamoto city, on the island of Kyushu, the Japan Meteorological Agency says. The two Sendai nuclear reactors on Kyushu are reported to be operating as normal. The three Genkai nuclear reactors still in operation on the island were already closed for routine inspection.
A still shocked resident from a town in southern Japan recounted his terror the previous night as he examined the damage Friday from a powerful earthquake that brought down buildings and left nine people dead. More than 100 aftershocks from Thursday night's magnitude-6.5 earthquake continued to rattle the region as businesses and residents got a fuller look at the widespread damage from the unusually strong quake, which also injured about 800 people. The epicenter was 120 kilometers (74 miles) northeast of Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai nuclear plant, the only one operating in the country. Most of Japan's nuclear reactors remain offline following the meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima plant in 2011 after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a huge tsunami.
THE QUAKE: A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck at 9:26 p.m. Thursday at a depth of 11 kilometers (7 miles). WHERE: The epicenter was near Kumamoto, a city of 740,000 people on Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands. DEATHS AND INJURIES: Nine have been confirmed dead, and more than 800 injured, including 53 seriously. Eight of the dead were from Mashiki. DAMAGE: Widespread and still being assessed.