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9 dead, 33 missing after M6.7 quake hits Hokkaido, knocks out power

57 Comments
By Kaori Kaneko and Chang-Ran Kim

A powerful earthquake paralyzed Hokkaido on Thursday, killing at least nine people, triggering landslides and knocking out power to its 5.3 million residents.

The death toll from the 6.7-magnitude, pre-dawn quake was likely to rise as rescuers searched houses buried by landslides.

About 33 people were missing and 300 were injured, public broadcaster NHK said.

The quake was the latest in a string of natural disasters to batter Japan after typhoons, flooding and a record-breaking heat wave within the past two months.

Aerial footage showed dozens of landslides exposing barren hillsides near the town of Atsuma in southern Hokkaido, with mounds of red earth and toppled trees piled at the edge of green fields.

The collapsed remains of what appeared to be houses or barns were strewn about.

"It came in four big jerks - boom! boom! boom! boom!" one unidentified woman told NHK. "Before we knew it our house was bent and we couldn't open the door."

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said 25,000 Self-Defense Force troops would be deployed for rescue operations.

The island, a tourist destination known for its mountains, lakes and seafood, lost its power when Hokkaido Electric Power Co shut down of all its fossil fuel-fired power plants after the quake as a precaution.

It was the first time since the utility was established in 1951 that had happened.

Almost 12 hours later, power was restored to parts of Sapporo, Hokkaido's capital, and Asahikawa, its second-biggest city.

The government said there was damage to Hokkaido Electric's Tomato-Atsuma plant, which supplies half the island's 2.95 million households. It could take a week to restore power fully to all residents, Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said.

All trains across the island were halted.

Television footage from Sapporo showed crumbled roads and mud covering a main street. Police directed traffic because signal lights were out while drink-vending machines, ubiquitous in Japan, and most ATMs were not working.

"Without electricity, there's nothing I can do except to write prescriptions," a doctor in Abira, the town next to Atsuma, told NHK.

Media reported a baby girl at a Sapporo hospital was in critical condition after the power was cut to her respirator. It wasn't clear if the hospital had a generator.

The quake hit at 3:08 a.m. at a depth of 40 km, with its epicenter about 65 km southeast of Sapporo, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. In Atsuma, it registered a 7 on Japan's 7-point quake intensity scale, the agency said, revising an earlier measurement.

Hokkaido's main airport was closed, at least for the day. Debris and water could be seen on the terminal floors.

Kyodo news agency said more than 200 flights and 40,000 passengers would be affected on Thursday alone.

Farming, tourism and other services are big economic drivers on Hokkaido, which accounts for just 3.6 percent of Japan's gross domestic product, but there is some industry. Kirin Brewery and Sapporo Breweries both said factories were shut by the power outage.

A series of smaller shocks followed the initial quake, the JMA said. Residents were warned to take precautions.

By the afternoon, backhoes and other earth-moving equipment in Atsuma had begun clearing debris.

Hokkaido's Tomari nuclear power station, which has been shut since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, suffered a power outage but officials said it was cooling its spent nuclear fuel safely.

© Thomson Reuters 2018.

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

57 Comments
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Jesus, rough year for Japan.

Hopefully this hasn't resulted in any deaths.

22 ( +29 / -7 )

6.7 is a very large quake!

I hope the people are alright.

23 ( +23 / -0 )

Be safe folks! Thoughts are with you!

18 ( +18 / -0 )

2018 been an awful year...can't wait for this year to be over.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

That's a big number....I'm glad damage and injuries are low, at least from what we hear now.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Four aftershocks of 5.3 / 4.8 / 4.3 / 5.4 were recorded in the last 3 hours... Also yesterday a 5.4 was recorded in Ibaraki! Stay safe people and be prepared for bigger ones!

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Wow mother nature is brutal on Japan this year.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

It is difficult to think Japan does not go broke - earthquakes, typhoons, tsunami, flood, landslide etc. that happen every year all over Japan. Compared with other countries, the money Japan has to spend for natural disasters may be appalling.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

Not in Hokkaido, but in Northern Tohoku and we were woken up twice, by the first and then one of the aftershocks. Normally I am straightaway to the front door to ride out quakes. But this time I was still so exhausted from the typhoon that passed through Monday night that I was still struggling to get up by the time the quakes ended. No damage but for us but the first especially seemed longish, one of the longer we’ve felt since 3.11. Hoping our elderly relatives in Hokkaido are okay but can’t get through to them yet.

There will be more aftershocks, people in the affected areas should be especially careful. Good luck.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

Another tragedy. From Kumamoto, hopes that no lives have been lost, the aftershocks are gentle, and recovery is rapid.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Stay safe everyone. Fingers crossed that the main event has passed, but it would be wise to stay on your guard.

40km is pretty shallow, so that means concentrated localized damage. The epicenter is inaka, so the measuring equipment will be more spread out than in an urbanized area. The Japanese "shindo", i.e., how much the surface shakes, is actually the most meaningful way to measure an earthquake and give ordinary folks an estimate of the likely damage. With localized quakes in particular, you can have big differences in the same town. From the images of Sapporo, it looks like some people there got hit with more than the shindo number on the map.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Let's hope that this will be the last serious natural disaster this year. Like Schopenhauer said, the government department in charge of managing the natural disaster response is working overtime this year.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Chitose Airport (Sapporo) will be closed for a while due to damage to the terminal building. And the train service through the Seikan Tunnel also out for now.

Looks like we’re going to be seeing some fatalities as they get a grasp on the extent of the situation.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Pretty big shake here in otaru and no water or electricity yet.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

“A landslide along a long ridge in the rural town of Atsumi”

I believe you mean Atsuma? 厚真町

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Yes, thank you. That has been corrected.

There were widespread power outages

Actually its a power blackout on all Hokkaido since 3:00 am.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Hope you all are OK. It's been a mess of a year, agreed.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Wow, typhoon one day ago followed up by a big earthquake. Japan can't seem to catch a break. Hope this is not the lead up to another big one.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

This is the worst earthquake I've ever heard of in Hokkaido. I fear that with so much spread out recovery will take some time. This is really big.With Shinchitose Airport out and Rails down people trying to get out are really stuck. Don't know if remote airports like Memanbestu are operating.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I really hope everyone in Hokkaido is fine. i wish people always be given a patient heart, through all this

3 ( +3 / -0 )

seems single family homes suffer the most damage in disasters here. Don't know if construction material these days is any better than 20 or 30 years ago.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'm in Hokkaido. We're without power (thank goodness wifi is working) and have no idea when we'll get it back. Had to drive somewhere this morning; first time I've ever done that with total traffic-light loss.

So far so good, but I hope we don't have to go too long without power. We still have running water ... for the time being. Hopefully we'll be back to civilized living soon.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

OssanAmerica

There was a big quake off Okushiri in 1993.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1993_Hokkaid%C5%8D_earthquake

If I remember correctly the fires were caused by kerosene tanks. The area is a fishing port and squid fishing uses (or used to use) boats with big oil-powered lights to lure the squid to the surface. If you ever get a ferry on the Japan Sea, you can see squid boats from miles away. The tanks by the port ruptured and caught fire during the quake.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Hokkaido update: phone towers are running out of battery so we will have no connectivity soon. Reception already faltering. Water will be cut off in the next 30-60 min. Let’s see how long it takes to get things working. Local friends say they’ve never had anything like this before so may be a while.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Going for the best for all you guys in the area.

Stay safe everybody.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Hearts out to all in Hokkaido. Thank you to all emergency personnel, all personnel trying to restore utilities, and all who are volunteering to help their neighbors. I wonder how the flat roof houses held up in comparison with those with pitched roofs.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Japan the safest country to visit to find unsafe natural disaster, how to balance it well?

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

I'm praying for everyone in Japan. Take care!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Not to worry when one is prepared, luckily.

Luckily because I just installed the solar panels and inverter in my RV, can process my own water, enough can foods, and nice shelter like comforts of home, and AC during the day. So sorry for all the other folks but these are the times to open the bank and help my neighbors in need.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Abe and Aso wants to jack up prices for military and other things but neglect the natural disasters thats constantly occuring, money should be allocated for repairs perhaps instead of vanity works and military only

4 ( +7 / -3 )

I hope everyone makes a swift recovery!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Why are some people down-thumbing those who left comments that priase others for their work done or praying for others or just saying what they see? I seriously do not understand.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

"...the coal-fired Tomato-Atsuma power plant..."

Surely Tomato must be a typo of Tomari.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

My heart is with you, Japan. I admire Japanese people strength, courage, resilience, and patience very much. They live in such a difficult Country. Also my Country, Italy, is earthquake prone, and we have had in the latest years some events with many casualties. Every time, Japan always showed solidarity towards us Italians with beautiful gestures. I remember their lovely help with the Amatrice earthquakes in 2016. I feel close to you. Forza Giappone!

8 ( +8 / -0 )

portoToday  01:03 pm JST

"...the coal-fired Tomato-Atsuma power plant..."

Surely Tomato must be a typo of Tomari.

Tomato (or Tomatou) is correct. It’s Toma + tou.

苫東厚真発電所

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The Earth is getting angry with us.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Still no power as of 3pm. Out for about 12 hours now. Seems most work and school was cancelled. No public transport running today either. It was crazy at the convenience store this morning with people stocking up on emergency supplies.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The Earth is getting angry with us.

Oh stop it. The Earth doesn't get "angry." Stuff happens.

1 ( +9 / -8 )

Commanteer, so easy for you to dismiss someone else's beliefs? A big part of Japanese culture is a belief that the earth is a living entity. Indeed, it is a belief across many cultures.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

indeed a living entity as in its energy processes are constantly on the move - very much doubt the earth has any sentience, emotions or that it is has beef with us humans this particular year...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Hopefully those without power, water, and nearby functioning well-stocked markets, have followed the standard, oft-repeated advice to have at least many days supplies such as water, food that can be eaten as is, medicine, diapers, etc as well as equipment such as flashlights etc on hand at all times.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

2 airports down, infrastructure damage, dead and missing, 90000 homeless in fukushima 15000 in kumomoto...and abe wants to spend our pension money on F35s, Ospreys and cruise missiles.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Thank goodness its happened now rather than in a couple of months time when it would be a lot colder. either way its a very bad year for Japan as for natural disasters.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Our thoughts and prayers for those who are affected by this earthquake and typhoon as well.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Dear Almighty God,

Please let this continuous rain and earthquake come to an end. Save japan from further calamities by embracing this country japan with your protective,grace & merciful blessings. Amen..

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Poor Japan. Such a great country with wonderful people.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Commanteer, so easy for you to dismiss someone else's beliefs? A big part of Japanese culture is a belief that the earth is a living entity. Indeed, it is a belief across many cultures.

When they are unhelpful and unsupported by any scientific view of the world, yes. I don't think someone who just saw their house washed away or lost family is helped by anyone saying the Earth is angry. No educated person believes the earth feels anger or any other emotion.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Checking in from Tomakomai. Power is on in some place but most of us are in the dark. We have water, though, so we are lucky all things considered. Stay safe, folks! Another big jolt is scheduled to hit in the next couple of days. Get your supplies ready.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Having three-quarters of Hokkaido without power is unacceptable IMO. Obviousky, these new stringent safety procedures to strengthen the superstructures of nuclear power plants have not been applied to coal and gas powered plants.

Japan sits in the cusp of three tectonic plates and has a long history of strong earthquakes. I’m always astonished how quickly the wheels fall off the infrastructure in the event of a strong quake. Throwing out the ‘unprecedented’ card is just not good enough in a country that is famous for its micromanagement. Hopefully, the people will get their power back on soon. There is no point in trying to sue the power company or the government for compensation because they will just use public money to pay it.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Annus horibilis.

A day without electrics on the whole island right into the afternoon. Some folks even without water supply.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

kohakuebisuToday  10:14 am JST

OssanAmerica

There was a big quake off Okushiri in 1993.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1993_Hokkaid%C5%8D_earthquake

Thanks. I just couldn't bother googling as this one is the biggest I remember. I know Hokkaido does get quakes as I was in Akan-ko in June 2015.

Hope they get the power up asap.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Long term, we really have to think about infrastructure...not nuclear power but solar, etc. Traffic lights, people's roofs automatically covered with solar panels, home wells, etc.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Take care to all my JT friends in Hokkaido. Be prepared and ready for bigger aftershocks. Remember, 3/11 was an aftershock. Keep a hand operated flashlight, medicine, 2 weeks of water and 2 weeks of food ready.

Why is Japan having so much bad luck with nature.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Traditionally, many people in Japan have imagined a Namazu waking up down below and violently shaking the earth. The blame lies with themselves for not having properly appeased it. Nature’s illogical savagery perhaps needed a convenient way of picturing what was happening to explain to the children. Certainly it draws people together, over and above their petty squabbles when faced with such disasters.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My sympathy is with Japanese people in this difficult time.I offer myself for the relief work on going due to devastation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Traditionally, many people in Japan have imagined a Namazu waking up down below and violently shaking the earth. The blame lies with themselves for not having properly appeased it. Nature’s illogical savagery perhaps needed a convenient way of picturing what was happening to explain to the children.

I don't see how the thought of a giant and irritable Chinese carp is more settling than the truth. I explained to my kids about tectonic plates - it's not a difficult concept and easy to explain. Traditionally, people have believed all kinds of silly things, but we grow and learn.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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