A 6.7 magnitude earthquake left at least seven people dead, 30 missing, and more than 150 injured on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido on Thursday morning. The earthquake further crumpled roads, triggered landslides that knocked over houses, and damaged power systems. First responders, who include more than 4,000 defense force soldiers, have been searching for survivors and working to restore electricity. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the defense force may eventually deploy up to 25,000 troops if needed.
Much of the destruction occurred in Sapporo, a city with a population of 1.9 million people that serves as the prefectural capital of Hokkaido. Atsuma, a small town of 40 residents located near the epicenter of the earthquake, was also particularly hard hit by the landslides. At least four people died in the town, and rescuers are still digging through soil, rocks, and wreckage to locate survivors.
According to the Hokkaido Electric Power company, almost 3 million households lost electricity after a main power station ceased operating. Though some residents had their power back within hours after the quake, it could take more than a week to fully restore service to the island because of damage to the generators. Hokkaido’s Tomari nuclear power plant was also relying on emergency generators for 10 hours, which was a source of anxiety on the island given the meltdown at the Fukushima plant in the aftermath of Japan’s catastrophic tsunami and earthquake in 2011. However, no abnormal radiation had been detected from the Tomari plant.
Japan has suffered through a series of natural disasters over the last few months. In July, 200 people died across the country as a result of landslides and flooding. That same month, a heat wave killed 65 people and hospitalized 22,000 others. And on Tuesday, the strongest typhoon to hit the country’s mainland in 25 years killed at least 10 people. Japan is still recovering from the typhoon, and now must address the fallout from the earthquake as well.
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