Japan rescue operations 'a race against time' following earthquakes

A police officer stands guard in front of a house destroyed by an earthquake in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan. Photo / AP
A police officer stands guard in front of a house destroyed by an earthquake in Mashiki, Kumamoto prefecture, southern Japan. Photo / AP

Authorities in Japan have ordered almost 250,000 from their homes following Saturday's 7.3 magnitude earthquake.

The search for survivors continues in the Kumamoto province on the island of Kyushu, where two quakes struck over 24 hours killing at least 32 people.

Inclement weather is hampering rescue efforts with heavy rain and wind forecast and temperatures set to plummet.

Firefighters have been handing out tarpaulins to residents so they can cover damaged roofs and protect themselves.

Japans' Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a government meeting that the weather was expected to get worse.

Evacuees talk each other at a gym-turned shelter after an earthquake in Mashiki. Photo / AP
Evacuees talk each other at a gym-turned shelter after an earthquake in Mashiki. Photo / AP

"Rescue operations at night will be extremely difficult ... It's a race against time," he said.

It has been reported that up to 422,000 households were without water and 100,000 without electricity.

National broadcaster NHK reported that 240,000 people had been given evacuation orders and there were fears landslides could wipe out parts of the affected region.

As evacuation centres filled to capacity the military were setting up tents and trucking in fresh water. NHK reported that 25,000 additional troops were set to arrive as well as more emergency services personnel and medical staff.

The death toll stood at 32 and the National Police Agency said 192 people had suffered serious injuries.

It was estimated 80 people were still trapped in rubble.

- NZ Herald

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