Fears grow for Japan quake survivors as death toll rises

Strong earthquake strikes near Tomakomai in northern Japan

Japan rocked by magnitude 6.7 earthquake

Hokkaido Electric said 2.95 million homes had lost power after the quake.

The magnitude 6.7 quake struck southern Hokkaido at 3:08 a.m. Thursday at the depth of 40 kilometers (24 miles), Japan's Meteorological Agency said.

At least seven people have died and more than 3 million homes have lost power on the northernmost island of Japan after a powerful quake hit, authorities said Thursday.

The quake left nearly three million people without power after damage to a major thermal plant supplying the region, which was already affected by a typhoon earlier in the week.

Approximately 12 hours later, the power had been restored only to parts of Sapporo, Hokkaido's capital, and Asahikawa, its second-most populated city, a spokesperson for the power plant said.

Other footage showed mud flowing through crumbled roads and police officers directing traffic because traffic lights are out.

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At least 16 people were dead or presumed dead after scores of hillsides collapsed, burying homes on the country's northernmost main island of Hokkaido.

A doctor in Abira, the town next to Atsuma said: "Without electricity, there's nothing I can do except to write prescriptions".

According to Hokkaido Electric, power has been restored to 1.4 million houses - about 40 per cent of the population - but authorities have warned it could take as long as a week to get the service fully back to normal. It registered a strong 6 on Japan's 7-point quake scale.

Hokkaido's main airport was closed, at least for the day.

Chitose airport is a major gateway to the island, known for its mountains, lakes and abundant farmland and seafood.

Kyodo news agency said more than 200 flights and 40,000 passengers would be affected on Thursday alone. The quake came on the heels of a typhoon that lifted heavy trucks off their wheels and triggered major flooding in western Japan, and damaged the main airport near Osaka and Kobe.

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Farming, tourism and other services are big economic drivers on Hokkaido, which accounts for just 3.6 percent of Japan's GDP, but there is some industry.

"This decision was made upon careful evaluation of the magnitude of damages incurred, including damages to critical infrastructure such as power outages and significant transportation disruptions, as well as to ensure the security of all spectators, including the supporters of the visiting team".

The nuclear site suffered a power outage, but officials said it was cooling its spent nuclear fuel safely.

Moments after the initial quake, which struck 62km southeast of Sapporo, a magnitude 5.3 aftershockrocked the area, with dozens more tremors felt throughout the day.

Japan sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where numerous world's earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are recorded.

The station was closed after the devastating natural disaster and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011, causing the meltdown of three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex. Officials are doing their utmost for the search and rescue while they assess the extent of damage, he said. Four people were in cardiopulmonary arrest, a term used before death is officially confirmed. Seismologists have said another such quake could strike the city at any time.

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