Earthquakes in Japan – level 3
Southwestern Japan has been hit by two major earthquakes, killing at least 9 people and injuring hundreds more.
The initial magnitude 6.0 tremor struck 7 miles east of the city of Kumamoto at around 9:30 p.m. Another 6.4 magnitude quake hit the same place slightly after midnight.
More than 44,000 people have been evacuated to schools and community centres. Many chose to spend the night outdoors despite the cold, waking up to cracked roads, crumbled houses and fallen roof tiles.
While the magnitude was much lower than that of the 2011 quake that triggered a tsunami and nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima, the intensity was similar because the quake struck on land and at a much shallower depth.
In this case, the absence of a tsunami and Japan's strict building codes helped keep the death toll down. Many iconic buildings like this one, Kumamoto castle, were badly damaged in the earthquake. Parts of the castle's signature stone walls collapsed in the aftermath.
More than 3,000 troops, police and firemen were dispatched to the area from around Japan. Experts have warned more aftershocks could occur over the next week.
Difficult words: initial (first), tremor (an earthquake), crumbled (fallen apart), trigger (to cause), death toll (the number of dead people), aftermath (the situation after a disaster), troops (soldiers), dispatch (to send), aftershock (a smaller earthquake which follows a larger earthquake).
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