Rescue workers have continued to search for survivors after a powerful earthquake triggered landslides on Japan‘s northern island of Hokkaido.
At least 16 people were killed and dozens are missing, feared trapped in mud and debris from Thursday’s landslides.
Around 1.6 million homes on Hokkaido remained without power on Friday, after the 6.7-magnitude quake damaged a thermal plant that caters to the region.
Thousands of rescuers, including troops called up from the Self-Defence Forces, joined the effort, searching through debris and handing out emergency water supplies.
In the small, rural town of Atsuma, more than 20 people remained missing on Friday after landslides wrecked and buried houses.
“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 Self-Defence Forces serviceman in Atsuma told public broadcaster NHK.
An elderly woman in the town told NHK: “My relative is still buried under the mud. I couldn’t sleep at all last night. There were also several aftershocks so it was a restless night.“
|Houses damaged by a landslide caused by an earthquake, are seen in Atsuma [Kyodo/via Reuters]
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government would “make an all-out effort to save lives” and urged residents to remain cautious amid forecasts for more bad weather in the coming days.
“Please give your sympathy to people who spent a dark night in fear, and do everything you can to restore electricity as soon as possible,” Abe told an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday.
Abe also warned residents to “exercise extreme caution” amid forecasts for more rain, which could cause further landslides, while officials warned of the dangers of more quakes.
“Large quakes often occur, especially within two to three days [of a big one],” said Toshiyuki Matsumori, in charge of monitoring earthquakes and tsunamis at the meteorological agency.
The quake struck as Japan was recovering from a typhoon which hit the Western part of the country on Tuesday, killing 11 people, injuring hundreds and closed the regional airport.
|Japan’s defence forces were handing out drinking water to residents in Atsuma town[JIJI Pres/AFP]