Japan natural disaster: landslide traps residents in homes

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A powerful quake of magnitude 6.7 on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido caused a landslide that engulfed houses early this morning, injuring and trapping a number of people and cutting power in several areas.

Several people were reported missing in the nearby town of Atsuma, where a massive landslide engulfed homes.

Almost two million people live in Sapporo.

At least 19 people were missing and 120 people were injured in Hokkaido after the magnitude 6.7 quake, it said.

Officials of Hokkaido Electric Power and the Nuclear Regulation Authority said the quake also severed all outside power sources to the Tomari nuclear power plant in Tomari, Hokkaido.

Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said it would take "at least a week" for power to be restored to almost three million homes after a fire in the area's largest thermal plant was discovered.

Bits of roof and water could be seen on the floor in New Chitose Airport, which is likely to be closed at least for today, affecting more than 200 flights and 40,000 passengers.

At a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga confirmed there have been 810 reported cases of landslides or damage to buildings but said nuclear facilities are unaffected.

The US Geological Survey said it struck about 68 kilometres south-east of Sapporo, Hokkaido's main city.

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said saving lives was the priority as his government set up a command centre to coordinate relief and rescue. The company can not even update information on its website because of the power outage.

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

Atsuma government officials said at least nine residents might be buried in their homes.

After the initial quake, an aftershock measuring 5.3 rocked the area moments later and dozens more aftershocks followed throughout the night and into the morning.

A powerful natural disaster has hit Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, collapsing walls and triggering black outs.

"Large quakes often occur, especially within two to three days (of a big one)", Toshiyuki Matsumori of the meteorological agency said according to news agency AFP.

They warned residents about increased risks of collapse among buildings near the epicenter.

They also write about long lines at food stores as people stock up on supplies amid fears of more tremors.

A graphic showing the location of a large landslides in Atsuma near Sapporo after a powerful 6.6-magnitude natural disaster.

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