Japan earthquake: landslide traps residents in homes

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –A powerful earthquake of magnitude 6.6 left residents trapped inside their homes as a landslide blocked roads, engulfed buildings and led to widespread power cuts on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido in the early hours of Thursday.

A landslide along a long ridge in the rural town of Atsumi could be seen in aerial footage from the public broadcaster NHK. About 10 people had been taken to hospital with injuries, one of them serious, it said. Japanese media said two people had died and 32 were missing, but there were no official reports of fatalities.

The quake, which struck at 3.08 am local time did not pose a tsunami risk, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said. The US Geological Survey said it had struck around 68 km (42 miles) south-east of Sapporo, Hokkaido’s main city.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe told reporters his government had set up a command centre to coordinate relief and rescue. Saving lives was the top priority, he said.

The Tomari nuclear power station, shut since shortly after a massive 2011 earthquake was relying on emergency back up power after electricity was knocked out. The station reported no irregularities and its fuel rods were cooling safely in a pool, operator Hokkaido Electric Power Co told NHK. The atomic regulator said the diesel generators have enough fuel to last seven days.

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