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9 dead, others trapped as strong quake rock Japan

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TOKYO — A powerful magnitude-6.5 quake has hit Japan’s south-western island of Kyushu, collapsing homes, sparking fires, leaving at least nine people dead and injuring hundreds, government officials say, as the scramble continues to rescue people feared trapped in the rubble.

Tens of thousands of people reportedly fled their homes and television footage showed damaged buildings, buckled roads and lumps of broken concrete in the streets.

The Kyodo news agency said some 44,400 people had been evacuated and more than 100 aftershocks had been recorded since the quake.

The Government said it had confirmed at least 761 people had been injured, at least 44 seriously.

Some 1,600 military personnel were joined by nearly 2,000 police officers and more than 1,300 firefighters to help in the search and rescue efforts, Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said.

As the death toll rose during the night, an eight-month-old baby girl was pulled from the rubble alive and unharmed, NHK reported.

“As far as we can tell from infrared images from a police helicopter, there appears to be a significant number of houses destroyed or half-collapsed,” Disaster Minister Taro Kono said.

“There are fears the number of injured could rise.”

The quake struck at 9:26pm (local time) in Kumamoto at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometres, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, adding there was no danger of a tsunami.

“I felt quite strong jolts, which I had never experienced before,” Shunsuke Sakuragi, a prefectural official in Kumamoto, said.

“People were shocked but I have not seen any extreme confusion in the city.

“We also received information indicating a few people were under collapsed houses.”

Hours after the main earthquake another tremor measuring magnitude 6.4 hit the same region just after midnight on Friday, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The US Geological Survey measured the first quake at 6.2, and put the second quake at 5.4 — another smaller aftershock followed.

Aftershocks were likely to continue for about a week, it said.

Japanese media reported that some 16,000 households in the area were without electricity and 38,000 homes had no gas supplies in Kumamoto.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe convened an emergency response meeting of emergency officials at his office to plot a response.

“We are doing everything to avoid a second disaster because of aftershocks, and to offer the necessary help to those affected,” he told reporters on Friday morning.

Jiji media reported that bullet train services were halted on the island, while NHK said one of the trains had derailed though it was not carrying passengers at the time.

AFP/Reuters

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NAC aims to bring more tourists

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KATHMANDU — Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) — the national flag carrier which bought two wide-body aircrafts — is exploring new destinations in Europe, North America and South East Asia to bring in more tourists to the country.

The NAC, with the new destinations, expects to increase its business and carry 400,000 tourists on board the NAC planes to Nepal every year.

The NAC’s move is expected to serve largely for the government’s announcement to mark 2020 as Nepal Visit Year.

The NAC is also planning to procure narrow-body planes that would make regional flights while the wide-body planes would fly to the new international destinations.

For the new destinations, the NAC has appointed issue manager.

With the agreement, the NAC planes would make flights to 14 destinations in a week. If things go as planned, the NAC planes would fly to Narita and Tokyo in Japan, easing the tourists visiting Nepal from there.

After getting approval from Japan and South Korea for flights, the inclusion in the significant safety concern list by the EU to Nepal would remove automatically while the flights to South Korea shall open up the golden door for Nepal Airlines.

South Korea is regarded as the safest country in the world in terms of civil aviation. Likewise, the ICAO has already removed Nepal from its blacklist.

Furthermore, the NAC is preparing to operate flights to bring in tourists from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Similarly, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari has directed the NAC for announcing new business plans by targeting the Indian and Chinese tourists, realizing the crucial role of the national flag carrier to make the Nepal Visit Year 2020 a success.

“Top priority has been given to the NAC as it is the major basis to bring in tourists,” Minister Adhikari shared.

Likewise, Minister Adhikari shared that expansion of services and facilities of the Tribhuvan International Airport has been prioritized.

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