The southwestern Japan prefectures of Kumamoto and Oita on Tuesday marked the eighth anniversary of massive earthquakes in April 2016 that claimed 276 lives.

At 1:25 a.m., the exact time of the second and most severe quake, families in Aso, one of the hardest-hit areas in Kumamoto, prayed for the deceased. In the town of Mashiki, where 45 people lost their lives, municipal employees held a moment of silence in the morning.

Hironori Nishimura (2nd from R), mayor of Mashiki in Kumamoto Prefecture, observes a moment of silence at a monument set up in a memorial park in the southwestern Japan town, on April 16, 2024, the eighth anniversary of the second of a pair of devastating earthquakes. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

On April 14, 2016, a magnitude 6.5 quake struck the region, followed by a M7.3 temblor two days later. The disaster highlighted the issue of indirect deaths, with 218 of the deaths in Kumamoto due to causes such as illness, more than four times the number of direct fatalities.

Utilizing their experience, Kumamoto's government and the private sector have been providing support to the Noto Peninsula, which was struck by a M7.6 earthquake on New Year's Day.

In the village of Minamiaso in Kumamoto, the parents of Hikaru Yamato, a 22-year-old university student who died in a quake-triggered landslide, offered prayers at the site.

"He would have returned safely if it had been just a few seconds different," his father, Takuya Yamato, said in tears.

At the site where an apartment building collapsed and killed three Tokai University students in the village, Sakura Hashimura, a graduate who has been sharing earthquake narratives and lessons, asked nine students to "imagine, even slightly, the extent of damage earthquakes can cause."

Hiroto Nishihara, a third-year university student in the group, said, "I want to convey what I learned today to my family and friends in my own words."

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