7 killed, 200 injured as strong earthquake jolts Japan

Tokyo: Seven people were killed and 200 injured after a powerful earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale rocked Japan’s Hokkaido prefecture on Thursday.

The earthquake triggered landslides that engulfed houses. Local authorities said 40 people remained missing as search and rescue operations ramped up their efforts to find the missing before nightfall, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK reported.

The quake, which came on the heels of a deadly typhoon lashing the west of Japan over the past few days, cut power to around three million homes after a thermal power plant was damaged.

Jebi, the strongest typhoon in 25 years, killed at least 10 people and caused widespread damage and disruption.

The Thursday’s tremor struck 62 km southeast of the regional capital Sapporo in the early hours of the morning.

It posed no tsunami risk, the country’s meteorological agency said, adding that the earthquake measured the strongest possible level on Japan’s seismic intensity scale.

Hokkaido Electric Power Co said that power was out across the whole of Japan’s northernmost prefecture which complicated the rescue.

After the quake struck, the firm said it shut down all of its thermal power plants as a precaution to ensure safety in case multiple fires broke out as the prefecture continued to be rattled by powerful ongoing aftershocks.

All flights were cancelled at Hokkaido’s New Chitose Airport. Train, bus and highway services were also suspended, local operators said.

More than 1,300 public schools in the prefecture decided to close and students were told to stay at home amid the dangerous aftershocks, according to local reports.

The Japanese government set up a liaison unit at the crisis management centre of the office of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to gather more information on the devastating quake.

It said some 25,000 personnel from the Japanese Self-Defence Forces were to be dispatched to the quake-stricken areas for rescue and relief operations at the request of the governor of Hokkaido.

Authorities warned of possible aftershocks and urged people to remain cautious.

Japan is one of the world’s most seismically active nations and accounts for around 20% of quakes worldwide of magnitude 6.0 or more.

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