At least two people were killed when a magnitude-6.7 quake struck the northern island of Hokkaido early Thursday, causing landslides which buried a “large” number of homes at the foot of a ridge.
Dozens of people were injured by the quake, mostly in Sapporo, said Kazuya Isaki, an official with the Crisis Management Office of Hokkaido Prefecture Government. Around 20 people are missing in Atsuma, near the epicenter of the quake.
Public broadcaster NHK reported that flights and public transport across the region had been brought to a standstill.
Nearly 3 million households lost power, according to the Hokkaido Electric Power Company. Officials said a main power station lost operations, affecting other sites. Independently owned power generators were assisting.
“The electric supply was stopped to Tomari nuclear plant, but it can operate without external electric supply for one week,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
Risk of aftershocks
The powerful quake lasted almost a minute, jolting residents from their beds and collapsing roads.
Near the epicenter, 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.