A powerful earthquake struck Japan and paralyzed its northern island of Hokkaido on Thursday. It killed at least seven people and triggered landslides which knocked out power to its 5.3 million residents.
Rescuers are still searching houses that got buried by landslides and the death toll from the 6.7-magnitude, pre-dawn quake is likely to rise.
Public broadcaster NHK said that about 33 people got missing and 300 injured while 4 people were in cardiopulmonary arrest (a term used before death is officially confirmed).
The quake is the latest in the list of string of natural disasters in the past two months to batter Japan after typhoons, flood and a record-breaking heat wave.
Aerial footage showed more than dozens of landslides exposing barren hillsides near the town of Atsuma in southern Hokkaido, with toppled trees piled at the edge of green fields and mounds of red earth. It also showed collapsed remains of houses or barns which were scattered.
One unidentified woman told NHK that it came in four big jerks and before she knew it, her house was bent and she couldn’t even open the door.
The Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Shinzo Abe said that 25,000 Self-Defense Force troops would be deployed for rescue operations.
The island is a tourist destination and is about the size of Austria and is known for its mountains, lakes and seafood. It lost its power when Hokkaido Electric Power Co had to shut down all its fossil fuel-fired power plants as a precaution after the quake . All the trains across the island had to be halted.
This was the first time since the utility was established in 1951 that this had happened.
Power was restored almost 12 hours later to parts of Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital, and Asahikawa- its second-biggest city.
The government said there was some damage to Hokkaido Electric’s Tomato-Atsuma plant, which supplies half the island’s 2.95 million households. Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said it could take almost a week to restore power fully to all the residents.