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At least 4 die, scores missing as powerful quake jolts northern Japan

Sapporo (Kyodo News) -- At least four people died and about 30 others are missing after an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 rocked Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido early Thursday, destroying houses, cutting off roads and causing massive multiple landslides that buried parts of towns.

Police, in blue with yellow uniform, search for missing persons around a house destroyed by a landslide after a powerful earthquake in Atsuma town, Hokkaido, northern Japan. --Kyodo News via AP

The 3:08 a.m. quake also cut power supplies to all 2.95 million homes in the prefecture and a nuclear power plant, while grounding flights and disrupting train services, authorities and other sources said. Power later returned in some areas.
More than 120 people were hurt in areas including the prefectural capital Sapporo, and at least 2,400 people were taking shelter at evacuation centres set up at more than 300 locations, according to the Hokkaido government and the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.
The quake is the latest in a series of natural disasters that have occurred in the country this year and came just days after a catastrophic typhoon hit western Japan and forced a shutdown of the largest airport in the region. It also follows an M6.1 quake that rocked Osaka Prefecture in June and left five dead and over 370 injured.
Local police are trying to confirm a report that five people have been found without vital signs in the town of Atsuma, while confirming that a man in his 80s in neighboring Mukawa died after being crushed by a chest that toppled on him.
A number of houses were buried in Atsuma and Abira after mountain slopes collapsed in a wide area. A total of 32 people are missing, all of whom are residents of Atsuma, the police said. Rescue operations are continuing in the town.
The idled Tomari nuclear power plant temporarily lost an external power source, forcing its operator Hokkaido Electric Power Co. to cool a spent fuel pool at its Nos. 1 to 3 reactors by an emergency power supply system, regulators said.
No abnormality has been detected in radiation levels around the plant, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said. Meanwhile, Tohoku Electric Power Co. confirmed no problems at the Higashidori nuclear power plant in Aomori Prefecture south of Hokkaido.
The power cut was caused after the Tomatoatsuma thermal power plant, which produces nearly half of the prefecture’s electricity, stopped. An imbalance in power supply and demand has destabilised power-supply frequency, forcing other thermal power plants to come to an emergency halt.
The blackout, the largest since the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake caused one affecting some 2.6 million households, also affected around 80 hospitals, telephone service and television broadcasting in Hokkaido. A fire broke out at a petrochemical complex in Muroran and was later extinguished by firefighters.
The temblor, which occurred in southern Hokkaido at a depth of about 37 kilometers, hit the top notch of 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale in Atsuma and upper 6 in Abira, both southeast of Sapporo. It was followed by smaller aftershocks. No tsunami warning was issued.
A quake with an intensity of 7 was last observed in 2016 in Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan.
The Japan Meteorological Agency warned that earthquakes with a similar intensity could continue in the area for about a week.
It was the first time for a quake in Hokkaido to reach an intensity of upper 6 since the seismic scale was revised in 1996.
“It messed up my entire house. I’ve never experienced an earthquake like this,” an 87-year-old man in Atsuma said.

(Latest Update
September 7,

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