KUMAMOTO – A magnitude 5.0 earthquake that registered lower 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale to 7 hit Kumamoto Prefecture at around 6:10 p.m. Thursday, the Meteorological Agency said. No tsunami warning was issued.
Municipalities, police and firefighters scrambled to gauge the impact of the quake, but the extent of the damage had not yet confirmed as of Thursday evening. According to the agency, the quake’s focus was about 10 km deep.
The quake struck as a lower 6 in the town of Nagomi in northern Kumamoto and a 4 in southern Fukuoka Prefecture, while some regions in nearby Saga, Nagasaki, Oita and Miyazaki prefectures recorded an intensity of 3, the agency said.
As of early Thursday evening, local officials in Nagomi reported that there was no information regarding injuries. There was also no information on injuries from the city of Kumamoto, where the earthquake registered as a lower 5.
A bullet train was brought to an emergency stop when the quake struck, according to Kyushu Railway Co. (JR Kyushu). Bullet train services on the Kyushu Shinkansen Line were suspended between Hakata and Shin-Yatsushiro stations.
Vehicles were banned from entering expressways in the Kumamoto region in case there was any damage on the road that could trigger accidents, operators said. Kumamoto Airport briefly closed its runways, its operator said, adding that no damage to the airport’s facilities had been identified.
No abnormalities were found at nuclear power plants in the region, utilities said.
Kyushu Electric Power Co. said the quake did not cause a power outage in the prefecture.
“The quake was worse than the 2016 quake and I thought that a building would collapse. It was frightening,” said a male shopkeeper in Nagomi.
“There were so many natural disasters last year throughout the country, so I did not expect that there would be an earthquake so early in the year. I am afraid of aftershocks,” said a 45-year-old man who manages a hot spring facility in the same town.
In a hastily arranged news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government had established an emergency task force at the Prime Minister’s Office to deal with the quake.
In April 2016 the region was rocked by a series of major earthquakes, including deadly temblors on April 14 and 16 that killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of houses. During the previous quakes, the renowned Kumamoto Castle in the city of Kumamoto was heavily damaged and remains under reconstruction to restore it to its original state — work that is expected to take years. It was unclear if the latest quake had caused further damage to the castle.
Thursday’s earthquake came as many were spending New Year’s holidays in their hometowns or were preparing to return to major cities.