Three people have been confirmed dead, including a nine-year-old girl, and more than 10 others have been injured as a result of a powerful earthquake that struck Osaka prefecture in western Japan on Monday morning, local rescue officials said.
Japan’s disaster management minister Hachiro Okonogi said there are people buried under the rubble of a collapsed building and local rescue officials are trying to locate them.
According to local media reports, there have been outbreaks of fires and burst pipes as a result of the quake, and a number of people are believed to have been trapped inside elevators, local rescue officials said.
While no tsunami warning or advisory was given as a result of the quake, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said the magnitude 6.1 earthquake was upwardly revised from a preliminary 5.9 temblor, which struck Osaka at 7:58 a.m. local time.
According to Kansai Electric Power Co., more than 170,000 homes in Osaka and neighboring Hyogo prefectures suffered power outages as a result of the quake; and Osaka Gas Co. said it has suspended gas supply to around 108,000 households in Osaka as a precautionary measure against fires.
According to the Transport Ministry, both Shinkansen bullet train and local train services in the region were suspended and along with commuter services being seriously disrupted, the three airports in the region were forced to temporarily suspend their services.
Japanese Self-Defense Force (SDF) fighter jets and helicopters have been deployed to the area to investigate the scene, government officials said.
The epicenter of the quake was located at latitude 34.8 degrees north and longitude 135.6 degrees east and at a depth of 10 km, according to the weather agency.
The quake logged at lower 6 in some parts of Osaka prefecture and upper 5 in neighboring Kyoto prefecture on the Japanese seismic intensity scale which peaks at 7, according to the JMA.
The jolt was also felt in the nearby prefectures of Hyogo, Kyoto, Shiga and Nara.
Kansai Electric Power Co. said that no abnormalities were reported at the Takahama, Mihama and Oi nuclear plants in central Japan and in neighboring Fukui Prefecture. Officials said all 15 nuclear reactors are still functioning as normal.
Japan’s public broadcaster NHK said that senior government officials gathered for an emergency meeting at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office to assess the situation.
Abe told a press briefing on the incident that the government will make its utmost efforts to deal with the effects of the earthquake. He told reporters that government officials are operating under the instructions that saving and safeguarding people’s lives is the priority.
The Japanese premier also said he has given instructions for local officials to carry out damage assessments as quickly as possible and do their very best to save and rescue lives.
Abe went on to say that he wanted the public to be kept informed as the incident continues to unfold.
Japan’s top government spokesperson, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, meanwhile, told a press briefing on the matter that so far, there have been no reports of serious infrastructural damage as a result of the quake.
The JMA, for its part, has warned people in western Japan to be on alert for further sizable earthquakes occurring in the next few days; and for people to be vigilant for the possibility of buildings collapsing and rainy weather adding to the risk of potentially fatal mudslides.
The high-intensity tremors of the quake on Monday were owing to its shallow epicenter, seismologists said, with the government saying that the 6.1-magnitude quake would likely not trigger the megaquake off western Japan that many experts have predicted will strike at some point. Xinhua/PNA