M6.7 quake jolts Hokkaido, leaving 1 with no signs of life


A powerful quake hit wide areas on Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido early Thursday, triggering landslides as well as causing the loss of power at almost all of 3 million households and a nuclear power plant to go on a backup generator.

Rescue squads from fire departments were combing many areas for survivors and further people who could be trapped following widespread massive landslides. It set off a tsunami that devastated communities along the Pacific coast and killed almost 20,000 people.

The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude at 6.6.

Efforts to restore power to almost 3 million households were underway but it was not clear when supplies would be restored, a company spokesman said.

Kansai Airport, an important hub for companies exporting semiconductors in western Japan, remained closed due to a powerful typhoon earlier this week.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the search was ongoing for those missing after the quake triggered dozens of landslides in the mountainous region near the epicenter.

The agency says quake struck the island of Hokkaido about 3 a.m. Thursday and had a depth of 33.4 kilometres (21 miles). Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters that the extensive power outage was caused by an emergency shutdown of the main thermal power plant that supplies half of Hokkaido's electricity.

National broadcaster NHK also said there were no initial reports of damage, although some households suffered blackouts.

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A fire broke out at a Mitsubishi Steel Mfg Co (5632.T) plant in the city of Muroran after the quake but was mostly extinguished with no injuries, a company official said.

Firefighters in Atsuma said five houses were confirmed to have collapsed and that rescue work is under way to help those possibly buried under the houses.

The natural disaster was followed by a 5.4 aftershock, NHK said, citing the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Additionally, Japan Meteorological Agency officials told NHK that risks of aftershocks are substantial for as long as the next week.

Both JMA and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there is no threat of a tsunami from Thursday's quake.

About 20 percent of the world's earthquakes which reach magnitude 6 or greater occur in this region.

The quake struck 27 kilometres east of Tomakomai at a depth of 33.4km at 3.07am (6.07am NZT).