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Tourists safe after quakes hit southern Japan
Julian Ryall, Tokyo, April 20, 2016

DOZENS of foreign travellers have been safely evacuated from parts of southern Japan after two major earthquakes and hundreds of aftershocks struck the area.


An initial magnitude 6.2 tremor first hit last Thursday evening and just over 24 hours later, a magnitude 7.3 quake caused further destruction, bringing down homes and infrastructure that had already been weakened.


Kumamoto Castle remains closed after suffering damage from the quakes

At present, authorities have confirmed 44 deaths with seven others missing, while more than 1,100 are being treated for injuries.


Foreign visitors, however, appear to have either escaped unscathed or continued on their trips unperturbed.


A group of 39 Taiwanese students and holidaymakers have been evacuated, while another group comprising 127 Thais have also been rescued from Kumamoto and Oita prefectures, some of whom went via Fukuoka Airport.


Meanwhile, many Chinese travel agencies have suspended their programmes to Kyushu for at least one month. The Hong Kong government has also issued a travel warning for the hardest-hit region.


Image from the Japan Meteorological Agency showing the epicentre of the quakes


"We are continually monitoring safety, but at the moment this does not appear to be an issue for our operations," said Paul Christie, CEO of Kyushu-based Walk Japan.


The company, which specialises in hiking tours to some of Japan's least-visited regions, has had no cancellations since the quakes first struck, according to Christie, who was preparing to start a hike with a group of 12 foreign visitors on Tuesday.


"We had to change the accommodation where we usually stay in the town of Yufuin because it has sustained some minor damage – tiles off the roof, broken crockery, that sort of thing – but we're finding that it's not enough to put people off," he added.


Kumamoto Airport, which closed after the quakes struck, has reopened for commercial flights yesterday.

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