On April 14 a 6.5 magnitude earthquake hit Kumamoto in Kyushu, the southern island of Japan. This was followed by a 6.2 quake. These turned out to be pre-quakes to the 7.3 quake that hit on the 16th and caused the evacuation of over 44,000 people and disrupted supplies to the region.
With the death toll still rising, over 1,000 injured, and hundreds left homeless, rescue worker are working nonstop to find victims. Many major Japanese manufacturers -- including Toyota, Panasonic, Sony, Honda, and Mitsubishi -- have suspended operations at their plants in Kumamoto Prefecture.
Unlike the Great East Japan Earthquake that hit the Tohoku region (including Fukushima) in 2011 which was caused by one tectonic plate being forced under another, the series of earthquakes in Kumamoto is being caused by two plates sliding against each other on a fault line.
As we saw in the similar Great Hanshin Earthquake of Kobe in 1995 which killed over 6,000 people, these more shallow quakes can be very destructive because their strength doesn't get dissipated before reaching the surface.
The magnitude 7.8 quake in Ecuador on April 17 was unrelated but even more destructive. If you would like to help the victims in Japan or Ecuador, here are some organizations that provide aid: