7 Sep 2018

Japan quake death toll reaches 9, expected to rise

10:12 am on 7 September 2018

The powerful earthquake that hit Japan's northern island of Hokkaido yesterday, killing at least nine people, has paralysed the area, knocking out power to nearly 3 million homes.

A powerful 6.6-magnitude quake rocked the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido on September 6, triggering landslides, collapsing buildings, and killing at least 9 people.

A powerful 6.6-magnitude quake rocked the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido on September 6, triggering landslides, collapsing buildings, and killing at least 9 people. Photo: AFP

The death toll from the 6.7-magnitude pre-dawn quake is likely to rise as rescuers search houses buried by landslides.

About 40 people were missing and 300 were injured, public broadcaster NHK said.

The quake is the latest in a string of natural disasters to batter Japan after typhoons, flooding and a record-breaking heatwave within the past two months.

Aerial footage showed dozens of landslides exposing barren hillsides near the town of Atsuma in southern Hokkaido, with mounds of red earth and toppled trees piled at the edge of green fields.

The collapsed remains of what appeared to be houses or barns were strewn about.

"It came in four big jerks - boom! boom! boom! boom!" one unidentified woman told NHK. "Before we knew it our house was bent and we couldn't open the door."

Self Defense Forces of Japan officers conduct a search at a collapsed house due to landslide in Atsuma Town, Hokkaido.

Self Defense Forces of Japan officers conduct a search at a collapsed house due to landslide in Atsuma Town, Hokkaido Photo: AFP

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said 25,000 self-defence force troops were being deployed for rescue operations.

Power to the island's five million residents was cut for a time and the Hokkaido Electric Power Co shut down all of its fossil fuel-fired power plants after the quake as a precaution for the first time since the it opened in 1951.

Almost 12 hours later, power was restored to parts of Sapporo, Hokkaido's capital, and Asahikawa, its second-biggest city.

The government said there was damage to Hokkaido Electric's Tomato-Atsuma plant, which supplied half the island's 2.95 million households. It could take a week to restore power fully to all residents, Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said.

Local residents and travellers in the region have shared their shock about the quake on social media.

They also write about long lines at food stores as people stock up on supplies amid fears of more tremors.

Locals wait in line for water supply in Atsuma Town, Hokkaido

Locals wait in line for water supply in Atsuma Town, Hokkaido Photo: AFP

All trains across the island are halted.

The quake hit at 3.08am on Thursday at a depth of 40 kilometres, with its epicentre about 65km southeast of Sapporo, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Hokkaido's main airport is closed, at least for the day.

The closure comes just days after Kansai Airport, another major regional hub, in western Japan, was shut by Typhoon Jebi, which killed 11 people and injured hundreds.

- BBC / Reuters

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