Death toll in Japan earthquake climbs to 18

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Tokyo, Sep 7 (IANS) The number of people killed in the powerful earthquake that struck the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan climbed to 18 while 24 people remain missing, the government said on Friday.

In a press conference after an emergency Cabinet meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that rescue efforts were underway in the affected areas as he urged people to exercise caution amid warnings of more rains and landslides.

Around 40,000 members of the Japan Self-Defence Forces, police, firefighters and Coast Guard were tirelessly working to locate the 24 missing people in Atsuma, the epicentre of the quake, chief government spokesperson Yoshihide Suga was cited as saying by Efe news.

Many were feared buried under rubble after the magnitude 6.7 quake triggered landslides on Thursday. “We’ve heard there are people still stuck under the mud, so we’ve been working around the clock but it’s been difficult to rescue them,” a rescue worker in Atsuma told public broadcaster NHK.

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Japanese authorities said that close to 50 per cent of the electricity supply on the island had been restored and power returned to 1.5 million homes and buildings.

Production restarted in several power plants affected by the quake on Hokkaido, which was receiving electricity from the main island of Honshu after the central government sought support from other power companies of the country to resolve the outages.

The earthquake had triggered an immediate shutdown of the main Tomato thermal power plant in Atsuma, which accounted for half of the electricity production on the island, and other power plants, leaving 2.95 million houses and buildings without electricity.

The island’s main airport resumed flights on Friday and train services were also scheduled to restart before the weekend.

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The earthquake came on the heels of a deadly typhoon lashing the west of Japan over the past few days. Jebi, the strongest typhoon to hit the country in 25 years, killed at least 10 people and caused widespread damage and disruption.

–IANS

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