Rescue workers in Japan are rushing to find survivors after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake rocked the country's southern island of Kyushu on Saturday, April 16, leaving at least 34 people dead and about 1,500 more injured or buried under collapsed buildings.
According to reports, the massive quake happened at about 1:30 am, waking many of the island's inhabitants, including those who were moved to disaster centers after an earlier tremor struck the Kumamoto Prefecture on Thursday, April 14.
Saturday's earthquake caused widespread destruction and triggered several landslides in the region. It also forced residents of a village to be evacuated over fears that a nearby dam could burst because of damaging.
Fire and disaster management officials said that some 66 individuals were trapped inside a nursing home in the town of Mashiki, which is considered one of the places hardest hit by the disaster.
Local news channel NHK reported that smoke was seen rising about 100 meters (328 feet) in the air from Kyushu's Mount Aso, causing people to believe that the recent earthquake may have also triggered a minor eruption of the volcano.
The Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) is continuing to monitor activity from the volcano, and has maintained its alert level at 2.
Kumamoto had already suffered a 6.5 magnitude earthquake on Thursday, which killed nine people and injured about 800 others. Officials said that the region experienced more than 100 aftershocks prior to the major tremor that occurred on Saturday. The quake over the weekend prompted experts to tag the earlier one as a foreshock.
Japanese officials have expressed concern regarding possible secondary disasters brought on by mudslides after weather forecasters predicted that the region could experience strong winds and heavy rain in the coming days.
Japan's meteorological agency also lifted a temporary advisory it had issued in anticipation of a possible one-meter (3.3-foot) high tsunami along the west coast of the earthquake's epicenter.
The JMA upgraded Saturday's tremor to a 7.3 magnitude quake after initially receiving a reading of 7.1.
Compared to the earthquake that struck near Mashiki on Thursday, the latest one and its subsequent aftershocks appeared to be moving eastward, causing the damage to spread to Kyushu's northeast region.