Japan Earthquake: Death Toll Grows In Hokkaido

The death toll from a powerful earthquake that hit Hokkaido has doubled to at least 16, according to Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, with more than half the island’s 5.3 million residents still without power.

Another 26 people were missing, disaster management authorities said.

The 6.7-magnitude quake, which hit before dawn on Thursday, triggered landslides that buried houses and paralysed Hokkaido with widespread power and transport cuts.

The death toll had been put at eight overnight but broadcaster NHK cited Abe in reporting the new total soon after he held an emergency meeting early on Friday.

The island, a tourist destination known for its mountains, lakes and seafood, lost all power after the quake when Hokkaido Electric Power Co shut its fossil fuel-fired power plants as a precaution.

The utility had restored power to about 1.31 million of 2.95 million customers by early Friday, the economy, trade and industry ministry said. It could take at least a week to restore power fully, according to the industry minister Hiroshige Seko.

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 heatwave.

Kansai international airport has been shut since Typhoon Jebi ripped through Osaka on Tuesday, although some domestic flights operated by Japan Airlines (JAL) and ANA’s low-cost carrier Peach Aviation resumed on Friday, the carriers said.

At Hokkaido’s main airport, New Chitose, JAL was preparing to restart some flights on Friday, a spokesman said. ANA cancelled all morning flights but would resume operations as normal in the afternoon, a spokesman said.

JR Hokkaido planned to resume bullet train operations from midday. It was also trying to resume other train services on Friday afternoon, a spokesman said.

However, manufacturers were still being affected by power outages. Toyota Motor Corp’s Tomakomai factory, which makes transmissions and other parts, said operations remained suspended indefinitely until power was restored, a spokesman said.

Toppan Printing’s operations at a plant in Chitose, which makes food packages, would remain suspended until it regained power, a spokesman said.

Cultural events were also affected, with a soccer friendly between Japan and Chile scheduled for Friday in Sapporo called off.

Credit: The Guardian (UK)

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