Powerful quake hits northern Japan, at least 20 injured

TOKYO (AP) — A powerful earthquake hit wide areas on Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido early Thursday, triggering landslides as well as causing the loss of power at nearly all of 3 million households and a nuclear power plant to go on a backup generator.

A magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck southern Hokkaido at 3:08 a.m. Thursday (18:08 GMT today) at the depth of 24 miles, Japan's Meteorological Agency said. The U.S. Geological Survey put the magnitude at 6.6. No tsunami warning was issued.

The quake's epicenter was east of the city of Tomakomai. It also struck Hokkaido's prefectural capital of Sapporo, with a population of 1.9 million.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said a man was found without vital signs in Tomakomai, and several people were reported missing in the nearby town of Atsuma. At least 20 other people were injured in nearby towns, though their conditions were not immediately known.

Footage on NHK national television showed the moment the quake struck Muroran, with its camera violently shaking and all city lights going out a moment later. In nearby Sapporo, a mudslide hit a road, leaving several cars half-buried.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko told reporters the extensive power outage was caused by an emergency shutdown of the main thermal power plant that supplies half of the electricity to all of Hokkaido.

Utility officials are starting up hydro-power plants to help restart the main thermal plant, Seko said. Authorities are sending power-generator vehicles to hospitals so they can accept emergency patients when needed, he said.

In the town of Atsuma, a massive landslide occurred on the side of a mountain, crushing houses at lower grounds.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference the authorities have received hundreds of calls about people missing and buildings collapsing. Officials are doing their utmost for the search and rescue while they assess the extent of damage, he said.

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