A POWERFUL 6.6-magnitude quake rocked the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido Thursday, killing at least eight people, collapsing homes, and triggering landslides that left dozens missing.
Multiple, large-scale landslides struck the sparsely populated countryside, which was also hit by the edge of a powerful typhoon that surged through Japan earlier this week.
Aerial views showed dozens of houses destroyed at the bottom of a hill that was engulfed by a landslide, with a rescue helicopter winching a resident to safety.
Around three million homes lost power after the quake damaged a major thermal plant supplying the region.
Hokkaido’s Tomari nuclear power plant, which was not operational before the quake, was forced to turn to emergency back-up power to keep its cooling system working, national broadcaster NHK said.
‘All jumbled up’
Kazuo Kibayashi, 51, a town official at hard-hit Abira town, said: “There was a sudden, extreme jolt. I felt it went sideways, not up and down, for about two to three minutes.”
“It stopped before shaking started again. I felt it come in two waves. I am 51, and I have never experienced anything like this. I thought my house was going to collapse. Everything inside my house was all jumbled up.”
Moments after the initial quake, an aftershock measuring 5.3 rocked the area and dozens more aftershocks followed throughout the night and into the morning.
Akira Fukui, from the main city of Sapporo, said: “I woke up around 3am with a vertical jolt. I put the light on but it went out shortly afterwards. All the traffic lights are out and there’s no power at work.”
No tsunami warning was issued after the relatively shallow quake, which struck 62 kilometres (39 miles) southeast of the regional capital Sapporo.
Around 20,000 rescue workers, including police and members of the Self-Defence Forces were responding to the disaster, government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said. Another 20,000 SDF troops are expected to join the effort.
“We will do our best to save lives,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after an emergency cabinet meeting.
NHK reported that eight people had lost their lives, six of them in the village of Atsuma, where the landslide engulfed the homes.
Nearly 40 people were still missing.