TOKYO (AP) – Dozens of villagers remained in shelters Monday as aftershocks rattled a region in central Japan hit by a weekend earthquake that injured at least 41 people and destroyed more than 50 homes.
The damage in a mountainous area that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics was worse than initially thought, though many were rejoicing at the lack of any deaths.
At least 20 people, including one two-year-old, were pulled from homes toppled by the magnitude-6.7 earthquake late Saturday night.
“Words cannot express my gratitude,” Kimito Tsutaki, 73, told national broadcaster NHK after she was pulled from her quilt bedding.
Neighbours used a car jack to lift collapsed timbers from on top of her.
Seven of the injured had broken bones, many after being crushed by heavy furniture as they slept on their tatami floors.
Some residents said they used the flashlights on their mobile phones to find their way to safety in the pitch dark.
Local experts said the structure of the mostly wooden houses, which are built to withstand loads of many feet of heavy, wet snow in the winter, helped prevent more casualties.
“Houses in that area are built with many strong supports and that may be a reason why there was not more damage,” Reiji Tanaka, a professor emeritus at Tohoku University of Technology, told the Yomiuri newspaper.
The quake struck west of Nagano city at a relatively shallow depth of five kilometres in an area prone to strong earthquakes due to an active fault, experts of the Japan Meteorological Agency reported.
The agency reported nearly 80 aftershocks by midday Monday.