The toll in the earthquake that struck the Japanese island of Hokkaido on Thursday has risen to 16, The Japan Times reported. At least 26 people are still missing in the countryside of Atsuma, where a hill collapsed after the 6.7 magnitude earthquake.
“So far there are 16 [dead] people and many people injured, with 26 still missing,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a Cabinet meeting. He directed authorities to restore electricity as soon as possible. By 3 am on Friday, Hokkaido Electric Power Company authorities had restored power to 9,64,000 houses, reported NHK.
Electricity supply was also restored to a nuclear energy plant in Hokkaido, reported Reuters. Although the three-reactor Tomari nuclear plant was shut down after the Fukushima disaster in 2011, electricity is needed to keep the fuel rods cool. The plant ran on back-up diesel generators till power was restored to all three reactors.
However, Hokkaido Electric’s Tomato-Atsuma plant, the largest thermal facility in the area, remained closed after suffering damage. Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko had said on Thursday that it would take “at least a week” for power to be restored.
The earthquake caused landslides that swept away homes and disrupted power supply to 5.3 million residents of Hokkaido. According to the US Geological Survey, it struck around 68 km southeast of the capital city of Sapporo. Toshiyuki Matsumori of Japan’s Meteorological Agency said the quake measured 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale.
Abe said 22,000 rescue workers worked through the night to search for survivors. The main focus of the search operations is Atsuma, reported NHK.
Transportation services started in parts of Hokkaido, with the New Chitose Airport resuming domestic services, reported The Asahi Shimbun. According to airport officials, international services will restart from Saturday.
Toshiyuki Matsumori predicted more quakes in the coming days. “Large quakes often occur, especially within two to three days [of a big one],” he said. The weather official urged people to “pay full attention to seismic activity and rainfall and not to go into dangerous areas” as instances of landslides and house collapses may increase.