Death Toll from Powerful Earthquake in Northern Japan Rises

Strong earthquake strikes near Tomakomai in northern Japan

Strong earthquake strikes near Tomakomai in northern Japan

Hokkaido Electric Power had restored power to a little more than half of the island's 2.95 million households by Friday afternoon after receiving supplies from nearby Honshu and rebooting some of its generating units.

The magnitude 6.7 natural disaster struck southern Hokkaido at 3:08 a.m. Thursday at the depth of 40 kilometers (24 miles), Japan's Meteorological Agency said.

Around 1.6 million homes on Hokkaido remained without power on Friday, after the 6.7-magnitude quake damaged a thermal plant that caters to the region.

Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said it would take "at least a week" for power to be restored to almost three million homes after a fire in the area's largest thermal plant was discovered.

Television footage from Sapporo showed crumbled roads and mud covering a main street.

Drink-vending machines, ubiquitous in Japan, and most ATMs were also not working. In Atsuma, a town of about 4,600 people, 26 were still unaccounted for. Debris and water could be seen on the terminal floors.

Chitose airport is a major gateway to the island, known for its mountains, lakes and abundant farmland and seafood. The government will send 20,000 more to the affected sites, he said.

In the aftermath of Japan's March 2011 disaster, when an quake and tsunami caused nuclear meltdowns and widespread power outages, the government mandated a boost in renewable energy supplies, opened up a roughly $70 billion retail electricity market to competition and created a grid oversight company to address these issues.

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The storm, the most powerful to hit Japan in 25 years, stranded thousands of passengers and workers at the airport, whose operator said it would resume some domestic flights on Friday.

Farming, tourism and other services are big economic drivers on Hokkaido, which accounts for just 3.6 percent of Japan's GDP, but there is some industry.

"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".

A fire that broke out at a Mitsubishi Steel Mfg Co plant in the city of Muroran after the quake was extinguished with no injuries.

Residents queue up for drinking water at an elementary school in Takatsuki, Osaka, June 18, 2018, after a strong quake hit the area during the morning rush hour. Residents were warned to take precautions for potential major aftershocks in coming days.

Japan sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where numerous world's earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are recorded. Officials say it killed at least 11 people.

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.

Japan's federation said the quake had damaged infrastructure such as "electricity and transport" and the cancellation was necessary to "ensure the safety of fans". Seismologists have said another such quake could strike the capital at any time.

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