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Hokkaido quake death toll rises to 21: chief Cabinet secretary

Rescue workers including firefighters and Self-Defense Forces personnel search a landslide scene in Atsuma, Hokkaido, for survivors on Sept. 8, 2018. (Mainichi)

The death toll from a powerful earthquake that hit Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido has risen to 21, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Sept. 8.

Six others are in a state of cardio-respiratory arrest and 13 others remain unaccounted for, Suga, who serves as the top government spokesman, told a news conference. The figures are based on information the prime minister's office has gathered from ministries and agencies concerned. Rescue workers were continuing to search landslide areas for survivors on Sept. 8.

Power supplies have been resumed to some 2.93 million households, or 99 percent of about 2.95 million households in Hokkaido.

Hokkaido Electric Power Co. (Hokuden) managed to secure a total output of 3.14 million kilowatts of power by reactivating its thermal power plants that came to a halt following the temblor and taking other measures, company officials said. However, approximately 19,600 households, mostly in the town of Atsuma hit particularly hard by the quake, were still left without power.

For the power company to prevent a blackout across all of Hokkaido, the utility needs to secure at least 3.8 million kilowatts at the peak of power consumption.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said the government will take various steps to prevent such a massive blackout. "We'd like to prepare all possible measures including rolling power blackouts," he said.

A Hokuden official said, "We've barely managed to supply the necessary amount of power."

With the resumption of power supplies, transportation systems resumed services.

International flights to and from New Chitose Airport near the prefectural capital of Sapporo restarted at around 9 a.m. on Sept. 8, following a resumption of domestic flights a day earlier.

Hokkaido Railway Co. (JR Hokkaido) has already restarted operations on its Hokkaido Shinkansen Line between Shin-Aomori in Aomori Prefecture and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto in Hokkaido. Moreover, services on JR Hokkaido's local lines around Sapporo were resumed on the morning of Sept. 8. However, the operations of limited express trains connecting major cities in the northernmost prefecture remained suspended on Sept. 8.

Meanwhile, aftershocks continue to rattle Hokkaido. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, a temblor that registered 4 on the 7-point Japanese seismic intensity scale in the town of Atsuma occurred at 10:43 p.m. on Sept. 7.

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