A magnitude 6.2 earthquake shook southwestern Japan on Thursday, killing at least nine and injuring hundreds.
The quake was centered in the Kumamoto prefecture, about 1,300 kilometers south of Tokyo. It struck in the late evening when many people were home eating meals, watching television, or sleeping.
Police say at least 19 houses collapsed and fear many people are trapped in the wreckage. Several aftershocks, along with the late hour, have complicated rescue efforts.
"There was a ka-boom and the whole house shook violently sideways," local resident Takahiko Morita told Japanese broadcaster NHK in a phone interview. "Furniture and bookshelves fell down, books were all over the floor."
He also said that some houses and walls collapsed and the water supply had been cut off in his neighborhood in Mashiki.
"We are doing our best for emergency disaster measures by prioritizing efforts to save and rescue victims," Japan's top Cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said. "I ask people in the disaster zone to act calmly and help each other."
The epicenter of the initial earthquake was 120 kilometers from the nation's only operating nuclear plant, but an official said the plant was operating normally.
Japanese media reported that Bullet train services were suspended after the quake.
Japan has strict building codes and enforcement because of the frequency of earthquakes in the country.