April 2016– JAPAN – MINAMI-ASO, Kumamoto Prefecture–A 200-meter-long road bridge spanning a deep gorge here collapsed April 16 after a new earthquake struck before dawn. The arch bridge tumbled into the Kurokawa River due to the magnitude-7.3 earthquake that followed the April 14 magnitude-6.5 temblor. “Aso-ohahi (Aso large bridge) has disappeared,” said a man working for a lodging facility called Associate located in the village of Minami-Aso near where the bridge had stood.
Speaking to The Asahi Shimbun by telephone, he said the quakes had created “cracks in buildings and concrete-covered areas” where he works. The Aso-ohashi bridge opened in 1971. It was situated at the western tip of the caldera of Mount Aso. The Kurokawa river runs 80 meters below. The Aso Campus of Tokai University and the Aso Volcanological Laboratory of Kyoto University are also located near the site of the collapsed bridge.
Two more powerful temblors hit Kumamoto Prefecture before dawn on April 16, raising the death toll from the series of earthquakes rattling southern Japan to at least 35. The quakes, which both registered upper 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7, meaning very disastrous, killed 26 people and destroyed many homes, police and other sources said. The figure for fatalities was as of 5:30 p.m. The number of people injured since this latest increase in seismic activity on April 14 also rose to 900 or so. The Japan Meteorological Agency said the first of the two April 16 temblors had an estimated magnitude of 7.3, equivalent to the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake that killed more than 6,400 people, and occurred around 1:25 a.m. with an epicenter about 12 kilometers below the surface. The second quake hit around 3:55 a.m. The agency said the 1:25 a.m. temblor was the main event among the series that have occurred since April 14. It explained that the epicenters were all located near the same fault lines and that the 1.25 a.m. temblor caused shaking across a wider area. Aftershocks in the lower 6 range struck at 1:46 a.m. and 9:48 a.m. The agency said the number of temblors since April 14 with an intensity of lower 6 or higher increased to seven as of noon on April 16, including the 1:25 a.m. main earthquake. Authorities said 10 of the people killed April 16 when their homes collapsed have been identified. In addition, one person perished in a fire that broke out in Yatsushiro, also in Kumamoto Prefecture, before dawn on April 16. Police are currently investigating whether the fire was related to the seismic activity. According to the central government, about 69,000 people had to evacuate their homes. They are staying at 655 temporary shelters in Kumamoto Prefecture. There seems to be no let-up in the misery. Authorities warned that rainfall is expected to intensify in the Kyushu region overnight due to a growing low atmospheric pressure system. Extremely heavy rain of 50 millimeters or more per hour is forecast to fall in some areas on April 17. As soil has become loose due to the series of earthquakes, the meteorological agency is urging people to exercise caution against possible landslides. –Ashai