Race to find survivors after deadly Japan natural disaster, landslides

Posted September 07, 2018

At least four people were killed and 33 were missing after a powerful quake paralysed Japan's northern island of Hokkaido on Thursday, media reported, but the death toll was likely to rise as rescuers searched houses buried by landslides.

The Yomiuri ShimbunPower was restored at about 1.4 million households, or almost 50 percent of all affected homes across Hokkaido, as of 10 a.m. Friday after a powerful quake the previous day.

Seven people are confirmed dead after the 6.7 magnitude quake caused landslides, with dozens hospitalised and millions of homes and businesses without power, according to local reports.

Yesterday's tremor cut off power to all homes on the island, plunging its 5.3 million residents into darkness.

Television footage from the southeastern part of Sapporo showed crumbled roads and mud flowing onto a main street.

The quake was the second disaster to hit Japan this week alone after a summer during which the country has been battered by deadly typhoons, flooding and a record heat wave.

Drink-vending machines, ubiquitous in Japan, and most ATMs were also not working. At least 20 other people were injured in nearby towns.

The quake, which was logged as a 7, the maximum on the Japanese intensity scale, also smashed a handful of houses and walls in Sapporo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS.

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Emergency services scrambled to the scene, with one person suffering life-threatening injuries airlifted to a Las Vegas hospital. The sheriff's office said it would continue to patrol the river " until all the unaccounted for passengers are located ".

Hokkaido's main airport is closed, at least for the day. Debris and water could be seen on the terminal floors. More than 200 flights and 40,000 passengers would be affected, Kyodo News agency said.

Domestic flights to and from New Chitose Airport near Sapporo resumed Friday morning following the airport's closure the previous day.

Japan is still recovering from the worst typhoon to hit the country in 25 years, which struck the western part of the country on Tuesday, claiming at least 11 lives and causing major damage to the region's main airport.

"This decision was made upon careful evaluation of the magnitude of damages incurred, including damages to critical infrastructure such as power outages and significant transportation disruptions, as well as to ensure the security of all spectators, including the supporters of the visiting team".

Japan is situated on the "Ring of Fire" arc of volcanoes and oceanic trenches that partly encircles the Pacific Basin.

In the town of Atsuma, where entire hillsides collapsed, rescuers used small backhoes and shovels to search for survivors under the tons of earth that tumbled down steep mountainsides, burying houses and farm buildings below. Nuclear regulators said there was no sign of abnormal radiation - a concern after a massive quake and tsunami in March 2011 that hit northeast Japan destroyed both external and backup power to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, causing meltdowns.

In March 2011, an natural disaster and tsunami hit northeast Japan, destroying both external and backup power to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which led to three nuclear meltdowns and the release of radioactive materials. Seismologists have said another such quake could strike the city at any time.