The Japan Meteorological Agency said the tremor, that struck the Kumamoto Prefecture at 9 26 pm local time, was measured at 6.4 on the Richter scale.
quake had not produced a tsunami, but more than 100 aftershocks had occurred through early , the Meteorological Agency said.
It warned hat more aftershocks – some as strong as magnitude 6 -- were expected to occur over the next several days.
Japanese television interrupted regular programming to show live video of burning homes and rubble. At least 16,000 homes lost power, according to Nippon Television. Bullet train operations in the area were temporarily halted.
Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said at a press conference that Japan Self Defense Force troops, planes and helicopters were being sent to the area to assess the damage and help with rescue operations.
None of the nuclear power plants in the affected area reported damage, according to a statement released by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office.