11 killed in Hokkaido as quake adds to Japan woes

AFP
Rescuers scrabbled through mud for survivors yesterday after a powerful earthquake sent hillsides crashing down onto homes in Japan, killing at least 11 people.
AFP

Rescuers scrabbled through mud for survivors yesterday after a powerful earthquake sent hillsides crashing down onto homes in Japan, killing at least 11 people and leaving dozens missing.

As many as 30 people are feared buried beneath the earth and rubble of multiple, large-scale landslides that struck sparsely populated countryside on the northern island of Hokkaido after the magnitude 6.6 earthquake.

Aerial footage showed wrecked farm buildings at the bottom of a hill as rescue helicopters whirred overhead in a region already affected by the edge of a strong typhoon that ravaged parts of Japan earlier in the week.

The quake left almost 3 million people without power after damage to a major thermal plant supplying the region, with Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko saying it could take “at least a week” to restore supply.

Long queues formed outside petrol stations and supermarkets as residents dug in and authorities warned that further quakes could be on the way.

Kazuo Kibayashi, an official in hard-hit Abira town, said: “There was a sudden, extreme jolt. I felt it went sideways, not up-and-down, for about two to three minutes.”

“It stopped before shaking started again. I felt it came in two waves. I am 51, and I have never experienced anything like this. I thought my house was going to collapse,” he added.

Public broadcaster NHK reported 11 people had lost their lives, many of them in the village of Atsuma, where the landslide engulfed their homes. Thirty-two people were still missing, according to the broadcaster, with around 300 sustaining minor injuries.

Moments after the initial quake, which struck 62 kilometers southeast of the regional capital Sapporo, an aftershock measuring 5.3 rocked the area, with dozens more tremors felt throughout the day.

“We will do our best to save lives,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after an emergency Cabinet meeting.

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga added: “I urge people in areas shaken by strong quakes to stay calm, pay attention to evacuation information ... and help each other.”

“It’s going to rain (in Hokkaido). Please be very careful of further landslides.”

Around 20,000 rescue workers, including police and members of the Self-Defense Forces, were responding to the disaster, Suga said. Another 20,000 troops are expected to join the effort.

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

The quake also caused major transport disruption with all flights canceled from Sapporo’s main Chitose airport.

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