Japan's Hokkaido rocked by magnitude 6.7 quake

Source United States Geological Survey

A powerful 6.6 magnitude quake hit the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido early Thursday, the United States Geological Survey said, although no tsunami warning was issued.

The natural disaster, which struck at about 3:08 a.m. local time on Thursday, was centered on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Internet users reported a power outage on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido where Sapporo is located, but damage appeared to be limited.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, arriving at his office before 6am, told reporters his government had set up a command centre to coordinate relief and rescue.

Two other nuclear power plants in northern Japan, Tohoku Electric Power Co's Higashi-dori, which is also offline, and the under-construction Oma plant, were also unaffected, NHK said. The blackout affected telephone service and television broadcasting in Sapporo. Japan's Self-Defense Forces have been dispatched to help with recovery efforts.

Power was knocked out for Hokkaido's 2.9 million households.

"The SDF is already deploying some 4000 troops for (rescue work), and it plans to strengthen the number to 25,000 troops".

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A fire broke out at a Mitsubishi Steel Mfg Co (5632.T) plant in the city of Muroran after the quake but was mostly extinguished with no injuries, a company official said. 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.

Power is still out at the area's Tomari nuclear plant, but backup diesel generators have kicked in so the reactors' fuel is continuing to be kept cool, according to the government nuclear authorities.

Roof tiles and water could be seen on the floor at Hokkaido's main airport, New Chitose Airport, which would be closed for at least Thursday.

Additionally, Japan Meteorological Agency officials told NHK that risks of aftershocks are substantial for as long as the next week.

Local police say people are trapped under collapsed buildings, but there are no reports of any casualties yet.

Japan sits on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire", an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin which is prone to frequent and large earthquakes.

Almost 3 million households lost power, according to the Hokkaido Electric Power Company. It struck at a shallow depth of 31 kilometers (19 miles).

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