Rescue teams in Japan fear more trapped in quake debris as thousands evacuated

Search and rescue teams in Japan fear people are still trapped in the debris of collapsed buildings after Saturday's deadly earthquakes.

At least 32 people died and 1,000 are injured following the 7.3 magnitude tremor which caused widespread damage to houses, roads and bridges.

At least one mountain highway was severed in two, concrete tumbling into the valley below.

In the village of Minamiaso, where the damage is concentrated after a landslide, 11 people were "out of contact", said public broadcaster NHK.

It was the second major quake to hit Kumamoto province on the island of Kyushu in just over 24 hours. The first, late on Thursday, killed nine people.

More than 440 tremors have rocked the area since Thursday, said broadcaster NHK.

Three nuclear plants in the southern Japanese region were unaffected by the second quake, but the Nuclear Regulation Authority said it will hold an extraordinary meeting on Monday to discuss the disaster.

More than 110,000 people have been evacuated from the Kumamoto area and hundreds of thousands of homes are without electricity or water.

Earthquakes also struck the Pacific island nation of Tonga on Sunday and a major 7.8 quake in Ecuador on the other side of the seismically active "Ring of Fire".