At least nine people died and more than 800 injured when an 6.2 earthquake shook southwestern late Thursday.
The quake struck at a depth of 11 kilometers (7 miles) near Kumamoto city on the island of Kyushu, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.
The area is 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) southwest of Tokyo.
“The ground shook for about 20 seconds before the 6.2-magnitude quake stopped,” witness Lim Ting Jie said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government had mobilised thousands of police, fire fighters and troops for rescue operations.
“I am praying for the souls of those who perished in the earthquake and offering my sympathy to the families of the deceased, the injured, and the evacuated, and those affected by the disaster,” Mr Abe said.
Rescue efforts continued through the night but were repeatedly disrupted by aftershocks. By early Friday there had been 116 such jolts strong enough to be felt.
Gen Aoki, director of the Japan Meteorological Agency’s earthquake division, warned more aftershocks could occur over the next week.
UPDATE – 4:00pm EST April 15, 2016
A powerful 7.3-magnitude has struck southern Japan just a day after a strong but smaller earthquake shook the same region. The latest earthquake has killed multiple people and injured hundreds.
The earthquake was centered about 1 kilometer (0.5 mile) southwest of Kumamoto. It struck about 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) deep, making it a very shallow earthquake.
“No question, this is a large and very important earthquake,” said Doug Given, a geophysicist with the USGS. “And it will do a lot of damage.”