Japan: Toll from 6.7 magnitude earthquake in Hokkaido island rises to nine, 33 missing
Almost three million households are without electricity after a fire broke out at the largest thermal power plant in the area.
At least nine people were killed after a 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit the Japanese island of Hokkaido on Thursday, causing landslides that swept away homes, reported The Japan Times. Around 33 people are missing and 300 are injured, public broadcaster NHK reported. The earthquake has also disrupted power supply to 5.3 million residents.
According to the US Geological Survey, the earthquake struck around 68 km southeast of Sapporo. Toshiyuki Matsumori of Japan’s Meteorological Agency said the quake measured 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said 25,000 soldiers have been deployed to help with rescue operations. The police, the fire department and the coast guard are coordinating for an effective rescue and relief operation, he said, adding that his government was taking emergency measures to restore power to the affected area.
Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said it would take “at least a week” for power to be restored after a fire broke out at Hokkaido Electric’s Tomato-Atsuma plant, the largest thermal facility in the area.
The island was also hit by the powerful Typhoon Jebi that made landfall on Tuesday.
Train and public bus services across the island and operations at the New Chitose airport were suspended for the day, NHK reported. Schools were shut for the day and many highways were closed.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency said there was no risk of tsunami. A series of smaller aftershocks followed the initial quake, the agency said.
“Large quakes often occur, especially within two to three days (of a big one),” said Toshiyuki Matsumori, who is in charge of monitoring earthquakes and tsunamis at the agency, reported AFP. He urged residents to “to pay full attention to seismic activity and rainfall and not to go into dangerous areas”.
After the Tomari Nuclear Power Station in Hokkaido suffered a power outage, authorities started cooling its fuel rods using emergency power, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said. The Hokkaido Electric Power Company did not report any radiation irregularities at the plant, which has been shut since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
Japan sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where many of the world’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are recorded.