An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 has struck Japan, claiming the lives of nine people and the number of casualties is expected to rise in the next few days.

The Kumamoto Prefecture disaster management office claimed that nine people have been found dead and the numbers are expected to increase with rescue operations progressing. According to the ABC, Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu has been hit by a strong earthquake that measured 6.5 in magnitude. It has damaged homes, injured people and sparked fires besides causing many people to lose their livelihood.

The rescue office is continuously digging through affected areas to rescue people trapped under the rubble. The US Geological Survey stated that the magnitude of the earthquake in Ueki was 6.2. One of the witnesses, Lim Ting Jie, shared his experience and said that the ground continued to shake for about 20 seconds during the earthquake.

The television coverage has shown people leaving their homes and running away from the endangered area. Pictures of damaged buildings, destroyed and blocked roads have also been captured. The Kyodo news agency reported that around 44,400 people have fled their land and property and there were over 100 aftershocks recorded following the main earthquake.

Top government spokesperson Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga confirmed that around 12 people have been injured and 19 homes have been damaged in the Kumamoto prefecture on Kyushu. He also claimed that 350 military officials have been sent to the affected areas for the rescue mission.

CNN reported two deaths in Mashiki as confirmed by the prefecture office. One of them died in a damaged house and another one lost his life because of the fire caused by the disaster. The officials also said that almost 135 people have been hospitalised in Kumamoto.

Japan Meteorological Agency’s earthquake division Director Gen Aoki issued a warning saying there are chances of more aftershocks in the next week, including more collapses of buildings in the affected regions. “This is an earthquake that is going to shake for a long time,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said. “The buildings that were damaged in the original shock have now been redamaged or reshaken,” he added. “And all of a sudden you have a cracked building, and it wants to fall down with the second shake.”