Death toll from Japan’s Hokkaido doubles to 16: Prime Minister

Source United States Geological Survey

Rescue workers with dogs searched for survivors on Friday in debris-strewn landslides caused by an quake in Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, as electricity was restored to just over half of households.

A magnitude 6.7 natural disaster struck southern Hokkaido at 3:08 a.m. Thursday (18:08 GMT Wednesday) at the depth of 40 kilometers (24 miles), Japan's Meteorological Agency said.

According to Hokkaido Electric, power has been restored to 1.4 million houses - about 40 per cent of the population - but authorities have warned it could take as long as a week to get the service fully back to normal. At least 20 other people were injured in nearby towns, though their conditions were not immediately known.

The landslides ripped through some homes and buried others.

The temblor registered the highest reading of 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale in Atsuma and upper 6 in the neighboring town of Abira, both southeast of Sapporo.

At least 16 people were dead or presumed dead after scores of hillsides collapsed, burying homes on the country's northernmost main island of Hokkaido.

The quake damaged the big Tomato-Atsuma plant, which normally supplies half of Hokkaido's power and is located near the epicenter, forcing it to automatically shut down.

All domestic and worldwide flights had been suspended at New Chitose Airport in the prefecture on September 6, but flights resumed in the morning of September 7, with a Vanilla Air plane landing following a flight from Narita Airport near Tokyo.

The risk of housing collapses and landslides had increased, he said, urging residents "to pay full attention to seismic activity and rainfall and not to go into unsafe areas".

A football friendly between Japan and Chile scheduled for Friday has been called off.

Some parts of the city were severely damaged, with houses atilt and roads crumbled or sunken. A mudslide left several cars half buried, and the ground subsided, leaving drainpipes and manhole covers protruding by more than a metre in some places. The land slid all the way down and I thought I would die.

"This is shocking. I was always walking on this street and I had never imagined this road could collapse in such a way", said resident Sumi Noriyuki.

Industry minister Hiroshige Seko urged homes and offices already with power to limit their use as much as possible. I might have lost my life.

The last few months have brought a string of calamities in Japan. The quake came on the heels of a typhoon that lifted heavy trucks off their wheels and triggered major flooding in western Japan, and damaged the main airport near Osaka and Kobe.

"The forecasts are for rain, and that could bring more landslides, so please continue to exercise extreme caution", he said.

"It will take about a week" before the largest thermal power plant recovers, "so during that period, we are sending power-generating vehicles to hospitals", Seko told reporters.

Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo.

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