Strong earthquake hits Hokkaido in Japan, dozens missing and injured
A major earthquake hit Hokkaido at 3:08 a.m. this morning, causing injuries, landslides, and power cuts around the island.
According to the Meteorological Agency, the tremblor measured a magnitude of 6.7, at a depth of 37 kilometres, with the epicentre located in the southwestern Iburi region. No tsunami threat was issued.
The town of Atsuma, located around the epicentre, was one of the hardest hit, with latest reports saying at least five people were trapped under rubble when landslides crushed homes. Media outlets broadcast videos showing the extent of the damage in the region.
Hokkaido’s capital was also badly damaged, with these images showing collapsed buildings, broken roads and cars buried in mudslides in Sapporo’s Kiyota ward.
Shortly after the earthquake struck, power was lost across the whole island. According to Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko, an emergency shutdown of the main nuclear power plant that supplies more than 50 percent of the island’s electricity was the main cause of the power outage.
Hokkaido’s three nuclear power plants were already offline before the earthquake hit.
Police have warned drivers to take care as damaged roads have been closed off and traffic signals are no longer working due to the power outages.
The central government has set up an emergency task force to help deal with the effects of the earthquake, and evacuation shelters are being set up in Sapporo and other cities. Residents are being advised to stay indoors or head to evacuation shelters if their homes are unsafe.
Officials are also warning residents to be alert for major aftershocks in coming days. As of this writing, at least two deaths and 130 injuries have been reported, with more than 20 people missing. Hokkaido accounts for a roughly one-fifth of Japan’s total land area, and has a population of approximately 5.4 million.