Photo/IllutrationPassengers on a bullet train on the Kyushu Shinkansen Line are handed food at JR Shin-Tamana Station in Tamana, Kumamoto Prefecture, at 12:13 a.m. on Jan. 4 after they were stuck in the train for about six hours due to a strong temblor that hit the previous day. (Motoki Nagasawa)

  • Photo/Illustraion

KUMAMOTO--No fatalities, one injury and only minor damage to buildings were reported in a strong earthquake that struck Kumamoto Prefecture on the evening of Jan. 3, according to the prefectural government's response center.

The quake disrupted Shinkansen services as commuters were returning home from their New Year's holidays. Prefectural officials are warning residents to be on the alert for aftershocks.

In Nagomi, in the northwestern part of the prefecture, the maximum seismic intensity of a lower 6 on the Japanese intensity scale of 7 was recorded when the quake hit around 6:10 p.m., damaging concrete block walls and a shrine gate.

While several windows were also shattered at elementary and junior high schools, there were no reports of collapsed houses in the town.

In Mashiki, in the central area of the prefecture, a woman in her 80s suffered minor injuries when she fell after being startled by the earthquake.

The temblor disrupted operations of the Kyushu Shinkansen Line between JR Kumamoto and Hakata Stations, leaving bullet trains carrying hordes of passengers stuck for hours on the tracks.

As of 6:30 a.m. on Jan. 4, 28 people voluntarily evacuated in Nagomi, three in Gyokuto and one in the prefectural capital of Kumamoto.

Governor Ikuo Kabashima called for caution at a meeting of the emergency response center on Jan. 4, citing the possibility of major aftershocks that could follow for a week or so.

“I expect new reports to emerge on damage from the quake,” he said. “Based on the lessons that we learned from the strong quakes in 2016, we should respond scrupulously to the disaster.”

In the quakes that struck the central part of the prefecture in April 2016, an intensity 7 was recorded twice in Mashiki while hundreds of aftershocks occurred in a broader area. Fifty people were killed directly by the quake and more than 200 died during evacuation and for reasons related to the disaster.

Prefectural officials said they believe that the latest quake is not related to the 2016 temblors as the focal area is about 20 kilometers from the ones that occurred three years earlier.