Tokyo: At least nine people were killed and 300 injured after a powerful earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale rocked Japan`s Hokkaido prefecture on Thursday.
Around 30 people were missing in the wake of the temblor, with almost 2,000 people taking refuge in emergency evacuation shelters that were set up at more than 400 locations, Japan`s public broadcaster NHK cited local authorities as saying.
The quake reached the maximum level of 7 on the Japanese earthquake intensity scale on this mountainous island of around 4,600 inhabitants, triggering landslides and burying around 20 houses. It rocked Japan`s northernmost prefecture at 3.08 AM and the death toll was likely to rise, officials said.
Complicating rescue efforts, Hokkaido Electric Power Company said that power was out across the whole of Japan`s northernmost prefecture and 2.95 million homes were without electricity.
The firm said it shut down all of its thermal power plants as a precaution to ensure safety in case multiple fires broke out as the prefecture continued to be rattled by powerful ongoing aftershocks.
In addition, hundreds of thousands of households were reported as having no water supply.
The quake came on the heels of a deadly typhoon lashing the west of Japan over the past few days. Jebi, the strongest typhoon in 25 years, killed at least 10 people and caused widespread damage and disruption.
The quake had an epicentre about 40 km deep, east of Atsuma, the worst affected area and where the most deaths occurred, government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga said.
Around 21,000 troops took part in search and rescue operations on Thursday, including 4,000 members of the Japan Self-Defence Forces, a number the government said it may increase to 25,000 to boost efforts and prevent more casualties.
All flights were cancelled at Hokkaido`s New Chitose Airport. Train, bus and highway services were also suspended, local operators said.
At the airport, part of the ceiling collapsed in a terminal building due to the quake and a water leak and the power outage also forced the airport`s closure, the Transport Ministry said.
More than 1,300 public schools in the prefecture were forced to close and students told to stay at home amid continuous aftershocks.
Authorities warned of possible aftershocks and urged people to be cautious.