News World Death toll rises after Japan earthquake triggers landslides
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Death toll rises after Japan earthquake triggers landslides

Japan earthquake
A magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck in the early hours of the morning on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. Photo: AAP
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Two people are dead and 32 are missing after a powerful earthquake paralysed Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido, triggering landslides and knocking out power to its 5.3 million residents.

Public broadcaster NHK reported the first confirmed fatalities and said 120 people had also been injured after the 6.7-magnitude quake. The number missing had earlier been put at 19.

Aerial footage showed dozens of landslides exposing barren hillsides near the town of Atsuma in southern Hokkaido, with mounds of reddish earth and fallen trees piled up at the edge of green fields. The collapsed remains of what appeared to be houses or barns were scattered about.

The entire island was without power after Hokkaido Electric Power Co said it conducted an emergency shutdown of all its fossil fuel-fired power plants following the quake.

The utility said it wasn’t clear when electricity would be restored to 2.95 million households. The trade and industry ministry told the utility to restart the coal-fired Tomato-Atsuma power plant within a few hours, Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko said.

All trains across the island were also halted.

Roof tiles and water could be seen on the floor at Hokkaido’s main airport, New Chitose Airport, which would be closed for at least Thursday. New Chitose is a major tourist gateway to the island, known for its mountains, lakes and abundant farmland and seafood, and more than 200 flights and 40,000 passengers would be affected, Kyodo News Agency said.

The closure comes just days after Kansai Airport, an important hub for companies exporting semiconductors near Osaka, in western Japan, was shut after it was hit by Typhoon Jebi. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said officials hoped to reopen Kansai Airport for domestic flights on Friday.

The quake, which hit at 4.08am AEST, posed no tsunami risk, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The US Geological Survey said it struck some 70km southeast of Sapporo, Hokkaido’s main city.

It registered a strong 6 on Japan’s 7-point earthquake scale.

A series of smaller shocks, including one with a magnitude of 5.4, followed the initial quake, Japan’s Meteorological Agency said, warning residents to take precautions for potential major aftershocks in coming days.

Japan is on the Ring of Fire arc of volcanoes and oceanic trenches that partly encircles the Pacific Basin and accounts for about 20 per cent of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

-AAP