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AERIAL SURVEY

Dramatic drone footage of earthquake damage on Japan’s Kyushu island

Reuters/Kyodo
An earthquake-caused landslide in the town of Minamiaso, in the Kumamoto prefecture of southern Japan.
  • Steve Mollman
By Steve Mollman

Weekend editor

This article is more than 2 years old.

In the past five days, a pair of powerful earthquakes and hundreds of aftershocks have rippled through Japan’s Kyushu island. The first one struck on Thursday night, followed by another on Saturday morning, with magnitudes of 6.2 and 7.0, respectively. Many of the aftershocks—over a hundred—have been strong enough to damage buildings on their own.

To survey the situation, the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan deployed drones over the affected area, in part because roads and rail lines have been wiped out. It also shared some of the footage to help rescue efforts.

The most dramatic video shows the destructive force of an earthquake-caused landslide near the mountain town of Minamiaso. In it a massive column of soil and rock has wiped out a stretch of road and rail track, along with a bridge (start at the 5:15 mark to best see the damage to transportation infrastructure):

The rail line connects Kumamoto Station with Oita Station, and fixing it—along with the road and bridge—will obviously take a great deal of work. Bullet trains and other types of rail service, as well as flights, have been suspended in the area.

Another video patiently traces a peripheral fault line as it indiscriminately cuts through farmland, cliffs, and roads:

Shingenobu Aoki/Wikimedia
Kyushu Island.

More than 40 people were killed, hundreds injured, and many thousands evacuated to shelters. Authorities have instructed more than a quarter million people to leave their homes for fear of further quakes, as some 30,000 rescue workers look for survivors trapped under collapsed homes and landslides.

Major Japanese companies reported manufacturing stoppages, among them Sony, Honda, and Toyota. Ironically, many companies set up factories in Kyushu island’s Kumamoto prefecture because it’s usually less prone to earthquakes (paywall).

The quakes were the most powerful to hit Japan since a huge one (magnitude 9.0) struck in 2011, killing thousands and causing a tsunami that triggered a third crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

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