Death toll from Hokkaido quake rises to 44 as search operations called off

Xinhua
The death toll of the powerful earthquake striking Japan's Hokkaido last week rose to 44 on Monday, the government said, with thousands still displaced.
Xinhua

The death toll of the powerful earthquake striking Japan's Hokkaido last week rose to 44 on Monday, the government said, with thousands still displaced as aftershocks continued to rumble and powers supply remained unstable.

According to the local police and prefectural officials, the body of a 77-year-old man who was previously unaccounted for was found on Monday morning in the town of Atsuma at the site of a deadly landslide.

Two other bodies were found at the same site on Sunday, officials reported. There are now no reports of individuals missing and the search operations have officially been called off.

Japan's top government spokesperson, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, told a press briefing Monday that around 40,000 Self-Defense Force personnel, police, firefighters continued to work on removing debris and clean-up operations.

He also confirmed that there were no more missing residents.

The majority of the fatalities were in Atsuma, where massive landslides buried and crushed homes, leaving around 36 people dead, public broadcaster NHK said on Monday.

As of Monday morning, around 2,700 people remained in evacuation shelters, with around 70 buildings destroyed, and 8,000 homes were still without water supply, the Hokkaido prefectural government said.

Hokkaido Governor Harumi Takahashi has called on the people and businesses of Hokkaido for their cooperation in using less power, as consumption must be reduced by 20 percent at peak-times to avoid blackouts in Japan's northernmost prefecture.

"It is extremely tough but if rolling blackouts or another power outage occurs, restoring lives and business activities to normal will be severely impacted," Takahashi was quoted as saying.

The electricity shortage could continue for up to a week according to Hokkaido Electric Power Co., as the Tomatoatsuma thermal power plant which was damaged by the quake and produces nearly 50 percent of Hokkaido's power, underwent repairs.

Hokkaido was rocked by an early morning 6.7-magnitude earthquake last Thursday.

Around 700 people have been injured as a result of the quake which was measured the maximum 7 on Japan's seismic intensity scale.

This marked the first time a quake in Hokkaido has registered this intensity level since the seismic scale was revised in 1996, Japan's weather agency said.


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