Sunday, 1 October 2023

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Hokkaido shaken by powerful earthquake; homes engulfed by landslides and electricity supply to 2.95mil homes cut off

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 has hit Hokkaido, an island in the northernmost prefecture of Japan, around 2 a.m. Singapore time today (6 Sep).

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), the earthquake had struck at a depth of 40km at around 3 a.m. local time.

NHK World announced that “two people have been confirmed dead, 140 are injured, and about 40 are missing” as a result of the quake.

In a message to The Japan Times, Mr Kevin Yulo, a 28-year-old Canadian English teacher in city of Fukagawa, wrote that he had awakened to an emergency alert on his phone at 3:08 a.m. before experiencing “a strong jolt” several seconds later.

“Tall tumblers fell off my dining table, and some tissue boxes stored on a tension rod fell to the floor,” Mr Yulo elaborated.

“There was a blackout and there is still no electricity, although the water is still running.”

Several landslides were observed in the town of Atsuma near the epicentre of the earthquake at 6.28 a.m.:

As of around 1 p.m. today, NHK World reported that the Hokkaido Electric Power Company had “shut down all of its thermal power plants” as they are not able to continue supplying electricity safely to residents.

It was also reported that aviation authorities had cancelled all flights at Hokkaido’s New Chitose Airport today due to the power outage and grave damage to the airport’s infrastructure, such as collapsed walls and major water leaks from burst pipes which flooded the departure lobby.

Other modes of public transportation such as the Shinkansen bullet train services and bus services have also been shut down for the time being. Highways were also closed, as are schools.

JMA said that while there is no threat of a tsunami, residents should prepare themselves for significant aftershocks for about a week after today’s earthquake.

The central government has convened an emergency task force to promptly respond to the crisis, and evacuation shelters are being built in Sapporo and other cities.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has also announced the activation of 25,000 Self-Defence Force (SDF) personnel for relief operations.

This morning’s earthquake was the strongest earthquake that has been registered in Hokkaido since 1996, after the revision of the seismic intensity scale to ‘shindo’, which evaluates the magnitude of earthquakes using their impact on people, and not only from a geological perspective.

Hokkaido Governor Ms Harumi Takahashi said the intensity of the earthquake was “unprecedented”.

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