Two earthquakes leave 41 dead and thousands suffering
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 slept in their cars at a public park yesterday after two nights of increasingly terrifying earthquakes that killed 41 people and injured about 1,500, flattened houses, and triggered major landslides.
"I don't think we can go back there. Our lives are 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 yesterday at 1:25 a.m., just 28 hours after a magnitude 6.5 quake hit the same area.
Army troops and other rescuers, using military helicopters to reach some stranded at a mountain resort, rushed yesterday to try to reach scores of trapped residents in hard-hit communities near Kumamoto, a city of 740,000 on the south western island of Kyushu.
Heavy rain started falling last 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 yesterday. 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.