Japan has yet again been hit with disaster, this time in Hokkaido, where an earthquake has caused lethal landslides. Four people have been killed, while 31 others are missing and possibly buried by the landslides.
The 6.7 magnitude-quake struck the northern island of Hokkaido early Thursday, leaving over dozens of people injured mostly in Sapporo, said Kazuya Isaki, an official with the Crisis Management Office of Hokkaido Prefecture Government.
Around 31 people are missing in Atsuma, near the epicentre of the quake. Public broadcaster NHK reported that flights and public transport across the region have been brought to a standstill.
According to the Hokkaido Electric Power Company, nearly 3 million households have lost power.
Risk of aftershocks
The powerful quake lasted almost a minute, jolting residents from their beds and collapsing roads. Near the epicentre, landslides wiped out houses in the tiny town of Atsuma, home to 40 residents.
Officials told NHK at least five people were buried in the rubble. Photos from Sapporo, Hokkaido’s main city on the western part of the island, showed huge cracks in the street and subsided houses.
More than 4,000 defense force soldiers have been deployed to help with rescue operations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, and that number could rise to 25,000 if needed.
Helicopter rescue crews were also dispatched and have airlifted around a dozen people to safety.
Evacuation shelters have been set up in many towns and cities around the region. Aftershocks were continuing Thursday morning, and could pose a risk for the next week, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, which warned residents of the increased risk that buildings could collapse near the epicenter of the original quake.
Thursday’s earthquake comes as much of Japan is still dealing with the effects of Typhoon Jebi, the strongest such storm to hit the Japanese mainland in 25 years.
High winds smashed a tanker into a bridge, forced one of the country’s largest airports to close and left at least 10 people dead.
On Japan’s main island of Honshu, nine cities and towns issued compulsory evacuation orders.
A further 53 issued non-compulsory evacuation orders. Before it made landfall, the storm had sustained winds of 140 kilometres per hour and gusts of 165 kmh.
Source: Yoko Wakatsuki, Chie Kobayashi/CNN-Wire