Tokyo, April 17 (IANS): The death toll in a strong earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter Scale that struck the island of Kyushu in southwestern Japan has risen to 41.
The Saturday quake came after a sizable foreshock hit Kumamoto prefecture on Thursday. Thousands of people were injured due to the quakes and aftershocks in the region, Xinhua news agency reported.
Both the government and the weather agency warned on Sunday that strong winds and heavy rain was expected to continue throughout the day. Japan's Meteorological Agency forecast aftershocks and landslides.
They said the adverse weather conditions were likely to compound an already disastrous situation, which has seen widespread devastation throughout the prefecture and beyond.
The death toll is expected to rise as scores remain trapped beneath rubble and debris and unaccounted for.
More than 2,000 people have received treatment in hospital for injuries, public broadcaster NHK said on Sunday.
About 90,000 people were evacuated to shelters overnight in hardest-hit Kumamoto prefecture.
The magnitude 7.3 quake on Saturday is now believed to be the main quake, according to the meteorological agency, with an earlier magnitude 6.5 quake hitting on Thursday night, which registered a maximum 7 on the Japanese seismic scale in some areas, now believed to be the main quake's foreshock.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday said: "The victims spent a difficult night in shelters last night and we will make sure that enough food, medical care and water is made available."
Abe said the government intended to improve the living conditions of the evacuees while ensuring their stay in emergency accommodation was not prolonged.
Abe said extensive damage had been caused by the multiple quakes, with some 450,000 households left without power as the mercury dropped overnight and heavy wind and rain further added to the misery.
Flights in and out of Kumamoto Airport were suspended. The Shinkansen bullet train service in the Kyushu area too has been stopped.
Major portions of arterial routes and expressways in the region have also been closed due to significant cracks on the roads caused by the quakes or the roads crumbling.