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

Geneva Stokes
September 7, 2018

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 at Tomato-Atsuma that supplies half of Hokkaido's electricity.

The quake left nearly 3 million people without power after damage to a major thermal plant supplying the region, with Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko saying it could take "at least a week" for supply to be restored.

Local news agency SNA wrote on Twitter: "Hokkaido Electric's Tomato-Atsuma Thermal Power Plant was significantly damaged in the quake, and it seems that there will be no quick resumption of electricity services for part or all of Hokkaido". In Atsuma, a town of about 4,600 people, 26 were still unaccounted for.

Some 22,000 rescue workers including troops called up from the Self-Defense Forces handed out emergency water supplies and long lines formed at petrol stations and supermarkets, as people stocked up fearing further quakes.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed officials to ascertain the extent of damage and extend a helping hand to those affected.

All trains across the island, which is about the size of Austria, were also halted. Police directed traffic because signal lights were out while drink-vending machines, ubiquitous in Japan, and most ATMs were not working.

According to Hokkaido Electric Power Co., power has been restored to 1.4 million houses - about 40 percent of the population - as of Friday morning but authorities warned it could take as long as a week to get the service fully back to normal.

Moreover, Hokkaido's main airport, New Chitose Airport, was shut in the aftermath of the quake, which struck nearby.

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The island's main airport resumed flights on Friday and train services are also scheduled to restart before the weekend.

Chitose airport is a major gateway to the island, known for its mountains, lakes and abundant farmland and seafood.

"While we have yet to confirm the full picture and magnitude of the damages suffered, there are reports on large-scale landslides and power outages, and the entire region is still under an unpredictable condition".

The Tomari Nuclear Power Station, which has been shut since a 2011 natural disaster and tsunami, suffered a power outage but officials said it was cooling its spent nuclear fuel safely.

Moments after the initial quake, which struck 62km southeast of Sapporo, a magnitude 5.3 aftershockrocked the area, with dozens more tremors felt throughout the day. Residents were warned to take precautions for potential major aftershocks in coming days. Four people were in cardiopulmonary arrest, a term used before death is officially confirmed.

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

It was extinguished with little damage to the facilities and no casualties, a company official said.

The powerful quake and tsunami in March 2011 that hit northerneast Japan destroyed both external and backup power to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, causing meltdowns. Seismologists have said another such quake could strike the capital at any time.

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