Many home­less af­ter fa­tal Ja­pan quakes

Dozens sleep in cars at town’s pub­lic park

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - WORLD - By Mari Ya­m­aguchi and Yuri Kageyama

OZU, Ja­pan — The wooden home barely with­stood the first earth­quake. An even stronger one the next night dealt what might have been the fi­nal blow — if not to the house, then to the Tanaka fam­ily’s peace of mind.

The Tanakas joined about 50 other res­i­dents of the south­ern Ja­panese town of Ozu who were plan­ning to sleep in their cars at a pub­lic park Satur­day af­ter two nights of in­creas­ingly ter­ri­fy­ing earth­quakes that have killed 41 peo­ple and in­jured about 1,500, flat­tened houses and trig­gered ma­jor land­slides.

“I don’t think we can go back there. Our life is in limbo,” said 62-year- old Yoshi­aki Tanaka, as other evac­uees served rice balls for din­ner. He, his wife and his 85-year- old mother fled their home af­ter a mag­ni­tude-7.3 earth­quake struck Satur­day at 1:25 a.m., just 28 hours af­ter a mag­ni­tude6.5 quake hit the same area.

Army troops and other res­cuers, us­ing mil­i­tary he­li­copters to reach some stranded at a moun­tain re­sort, rushed Satur­day to try to reach scores of trapped res­i­dents in hard-hit com­mu­ni­ties near Ku­mamoto, a city of 740,000 on the south­west­ern is­land of Kyushu.

Heavy rain started fall­ing Satur­day night, threat­en­ing to com­pli­cate the re­lief op­er­a­tion and set off more mud­slides.

“Day­time to­day is the big test” for res­cue ef­forts, Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe said early Satur­day. Land­slides had al­ready cut off roads and de­stroyed bridges, slow­ing down res­cuers.

Nearly 200,000 homes were with­out elec­tric­ity, Ja­panese me­dia re­ported, and an es­ti­mated 400,000 house­holds were with­out run­ning wa­ter.

Ku­mamoto pre­fec­tural of­fi­cial Riho Ta­jima said more than 200 houses and other build­ings had been ei­ther de­stroyed or dam­aged, and 91,000 peo­ple had evac­u­ated from their homes.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple lined up for ra­tions at dis­tri­bu­tion points be­fore night­fall, brac­ing for the rain and strong winds that were ex­pected. Lo­cal stores quickly ran out of stock and shut­tered their doors, and peo­ple said they were wor­ried about run­ning out of food.

Po­lice in Ku­mamoto pre­fec­ture said at least 32 peo­ple had died from Satur­day morn­ing’s earth­quake. Nine died in the quake Thurs­day night.

More than half the deaths were in Mashiki, a town on the east­ern bor­der of Ku­mamoto city that was hit hard­est by the first quake.

Ja­pan’s Ky­odo news agency re­ported four peo­ple were miss­ing in Mi­nami­aso, a more ru­ral area far­ther east of Ku­mamoto where the land­slides were trig­gered by the sec­ond quake.

One land­slide tore open a moun­tain­side in Mi­nami­aso from the top to a high­way be­low. An­other gnawed at a high­way, above a smashed house that had fallen down a ravine. In an­other part of the vil­lage, houses were hang­ing pre­car­i­ously at the edge of a huge hole cut open in the earth.

About 1,500 peo­ple were in­jured in the two earth­quakes, said Yoshi­hide Suga, the Ja­panese govern­ment’s top spokesman. He said the num­ber of troops in the area was be­ing raised to 20,000, while ad­di­tional po­lice and fire­fight­ers

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