KUMAMOTO – An 8-month-old girl was pulled alive from the rubble of a collapsed house in Mashiki, Kumamoto Prefecture, in the early hours on Friday morning, more than six hours after a devastating quake pummeled the area.
More than 50 policemen and firefighters were involved in the rescue effort at the home of Asami Nishimura, where the building’s second floor had collapsed. Nishimura’s daughter, Miku, was asleep downstairs when the quake struck.
The workers persevered amid aftershocks and the smell of leaking gas, and shortly before 4 a.m. on Friday a cry of joy went up as the child was found unharmed, lying in a narrow space in the wreckage.
Mashiki residents had spent a sleepless night in evacuation centers on Thursday.
The town’s gymnasium and nearby facilities were packed with people after the magnitude-6.5 earthquake struck, leveling some buildings, sparking fires and ripping up roads.
Emergency food supplied Friday morning ran out immediately.
Tomiko Takahashi, 94, said she was awakened by a loud noise Thursday night and found broken glass scattered around her room. The door would not open and she had to escape by squeezing through a crack in the walls, which had partially collapsed.
“I can’t sleep because of fear of aftershocks. I have never experienced something so frightening,” she said.
Ayumi Ishikawa, 34, said she and her family fled their home without taking many belongings.
“I’m sure we have to be ready for a prolonged evacuation, but I don’t have a sense of reality about this,” Ishikawa said.
The area suffered constant aftershocks all night long, and mothers hunched over their children to protect them whenever the buildings shook.
A 79-year-old woman who lives alone said she fumbled about in the darkness at her home for a drug she needs for heart disease but could not find it.
“I want to go home to pick it up, but I’m too afraid to go back,” she said.
Injured people sought help at a hastily set up treatment center. A 16-year-old girl who was diagnosed with a depressed skull fracture she said could not remember what happened to her.
In the neighboring city of Kumamoto, about 100 people gathered in a central park following the quake. Some stayed there overnight, spreading plastic sheets on the ground, locals reported.
The quake severely damaged Kumamoto Castle, a designated important national treasure and arguably the prefecture’s No. 1 tourist attraction.
Part of the castle’s main wall collapsed and tiles fell from its roof.
Stone embankments crumbled in at least six locations and numerous cracks emerged in the walls, according to the management office.
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