September 6, 2018 – A powerful earthquake that hit the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido in the early hours of this morning left four people dead and 14 others out of reach, the prefectural government said.
The temblor, which registered up to 7 on the 7-point Japanese intensity scale, occurred at around 3:08 a.m., triggering massive landslides in Atsuma in southern Hokkaido and other areas, damaging roads and other infrastructure in extensive areas and causing blackouts throughout the prefecture. Hokkaido Railway Co. (JR Hokkaido) has suspended services on all of its lines.
Four people died in Mukawa and Shinhidaka in southern Hokkaido as well as in other areas. At least 123 people were injured in Hokkaido, three of them seriously, according preliminary figures released by the prefectural government.
In response to a request from the Hokkaido Prefectural Government, the Defense Ministry dispatched 4,000 Self-Defense Forces (SDF) members to Atsuma and nearby areas for search and rescue operations. About 20 SDF helicopters and aircraft were also mobilized for the efforts. By 9 a.m., the rescue workers had saved five people from landslides in Atsuma, where the quake registered 7 on the Japanese scale. However, one person is in a state of cardio-respiratory arrest and nine others were buried in mud while 14 others remain out of reach in the town.
The government set up a task force to respond to the disaster at 3:09 a.m. and held a meeting of Cabinet ministers concerned later in the day.
“Some 4,000 members of the SDF have already begun rescue operations. The number will be increased to 25,000. I’d like you to grasp the details of the damage and do your best to rescue victims and save their lives,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at the meeting.
All thermal power stations automatically stopped following the magnitude-6.7 quake, according to Hokkaido Electric Power Co. As of 6 a.m., a total of some 2.95 million households throughout the prefecture were left without power.
Hokkaido Electric’s Tomari Nuclear Power Plant in the village of Tomari in southwestern Hokkaido temporarily lost all external power, but six emergencies diesel generators at the power station produced enough electricity to cool nuclear fuel in storage pools. External power has reportedly been restored.
All three reactors at the atomic power station are offline, and no nuclear fuel is inside the cores.
However, a fire started in the No. 4 turbine at Tomatoatsuma thermal power station, while there were steam leaks at the No. 1 and 2 units likely due to pipe damage. Repairs are expected to take some time. The power station situated near the quake epicenter generates roughly half the power the company supplies to its customers in the prefecture.
Operations at all five hydro-electric power plants in Hokkaido have been resumed. Hokkaido Electric will send electric power from these hydro power stations to thermal power plants to restart them on a step-by-step basis, company officials said.
Water supplies have been completely cut off in Abira, Atsuma and Ebetsu, and suspended to some households in Hidaka, Kuriyama, Nanporo, Ishikari, Urausu, Uryu and Nemuro.
All services on JR Hokkaido lines, including the Hokkaido Shinkansen Line, are suspended and there are no prospects that train operations will be resumed anytime soon. The company cannot even update information on its website because of the power outage.