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Japan was intensifying search and rescue operations on the southern island of Kyushu Friday amid a series of aftershocks, after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake killed at least 9 people and injured about 1,100, the government said.

The government deployed more than 3,000 people to Kumamoto prefecture, the hardest-hit region in Thursday’s quake, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowed to make its utmost efforts in the operations.

“We will do our best to ensure the safety of residents,” Abe told reporters.

Walls and houses collapsed in Mashiki, a rural town of 33,000 residents, 900 kilometres south-west of Tokyo, when the quake struck at 9:26 pm Thursday (1226 GMT) at a depth of 11 kilometres, local officials said.

No tsunami warning was issued and the government said there were no abnormalities at nearby nuclear power stations.

TV footage showed sagging roads, flattened houses and evacuees lining up for relief supplies. The quake also damaged one of the region’s most popular tourist destinations, Kumamoto Castle, with a part of its long wall, designated an important cultural treasure, collapsing, Kyodo News agency said.

The roof tiles slid off in all directions while some part of the stonewall fell and numerous cracks were found, the report said.

The quake forced more than 44,000 locals to evacuate their homes in the prefecture of Kumamoto, with some spending the night outdoors, Kyodo reported.

More than 11,000 households lost electricity across the prefecture and the quake cut off water supply to about 58,000 households in the city of Kumamoto, according to broadcaster NHK.

The quake prompted the suspension of train services, including the high-speed shinkansen, or bullet train, in the region, the report said.

There were more than 120 aftershocks in the 15 hours after the quake, Gen Aoki, a meteorological agency official, told a news conference Friday. More were expected in the coming days, he warned.

Thursday's quake was the first recorded at level 7 on the Japanese seismic scale since the earthquake and resulting tsunami in the north-east on March 11, 2011, Aoki said.

Those twin natural disasters killed about 18,500 people and triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

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