Toll from Japan quake rises to 18 as hopes fade for survivors

Toll from Japan quake rises to 18 as hopes fade for survivors

Power to the island's five million residents was cut for a time and the Hokkaido Electric Power Co shut down all of its fossil fuel-fired power plants after the quake as a precaution for the first time since the it opened in 1951.

Around 22 people are still unaccounted for in the small northern countryside town of Atsuma, where a cluster of dwellings were wrecked when a hillside collapsed with the force of the 6.6-magnitude quake, causing deep brown scars in the landscape.

A powerful quake shook Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido early Thursday, causing landslides that crushed homes, knocking out power across the island, and forcing a nuclear power plant to use a backup generator.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said it would take at least a week to fully restore power to all communities due to damage at a thermal power plant at Tomato-Atsuma that supplies half of Hokkaido's electricity. "Hokkaido's power grid is small and the share of Tomato-Atsuma is large, so it must have been much a more hard a situation than after the big quake that struck eastern Japan", said Tsutomu Oyama, professor of electrical engineering at Yokohama National University.

Cars are stuck in mud covered road after an quake in Sapporo, Hokkaido, northern Japan, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. "All the traffic lights are out and there's no power at work".

A doctor in Abira, the town next to Atsuma said: "Without electricity, there's nothing I can do except to write prescriptions".

Japan's Meteorological Agency said the epicenter of the quake, which struck at a depth of 40 kilometers, was just east of the city of Tomakomai.

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The island, about the size of Austria, is a popular tourist destination known for its mountains, lakes and seafood. The government will send 20,000 more to the affected sites, he said.

Hokkaido's Tomari nuclear power station, which has been shut since the 2011 natural disaster and tsunami, suffered a power outage but officials said it was cooling its spent nuclear fuel safely. The quake came on the heels of a typhoon that lifted heavy trucks off their wheels and triggered major flooding in western Japan, leaving the main airport near Osaka and Kobe closed after a tanker rammed a bridge connecting the facility to the mainland.

"This decision was made upon careful evaluation of the magnitude of damages incurred, including damages to critical infrastructure such as power outages and significant transportation disruptions, as well as to ensure the security of all spectators, including the supporters of the visiting team".

With bad weather expected over the next days, officials are warning people to remain cautious and be prepared for aftershocks.

Japan is situated on the "Ring of Fire" arc of volcanoes and oceanic trenches that partly encircles the Pacific Basin.

Officials said there was no threat of a tsunami.

In March 2011, an quake and tsunami hit northeast Japan, destroying both external and backup power to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which led to three nuclear meltdowns and the release of radioactive materials. At least 20 other people were injured in nearby towns. Seismologists have said another such quake could strike the capital at any time.

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