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Sapporo residents spend uneasy night amid prefecture-wide blackout

People spend the night in the square of the underground passageway "Chi-Ka-Ho" in front of JR Sapporo Station, which was partially opened to the public by the municipal government as blankets and water were provided, in Sapporo's Chuo Ward, on Sept. 7, 2018. (Mainichi)

SAPPORO -- After a large earthquake in the early hours of Sept. 6 plunged the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido into darkness, residents of the usually bustling prefectural capital spent an uneasy night in pitch darkness here until power was restored to roughly 40 percent of homes by 6 a.m. the following morning.

Near the entertainment district of Susukino in Sapporo's Chuo Ward, an evacuation center was set up at Sapporo Shiseikan Elementary School. However, the facility was unable to accommodate all of the people seeking shelter, and some were seen sleeping on benches outside of the school.

"To think there isn't even a generator and it's pitch black ..." lamented 69-year-old Reiko Kakita, who lives in the neighborhood. "It's unfortunate that the city's disaster prevention measures are so lacking. I'm worried because it feels like my asthma might be getting worse."

Meanwhile, at Sapporo Tanukikoji Shopping Street in the same ward, which is usually alive with people until late at night, those who work at restaurants in the area were busy cooking food in a dark corner void of the usual neon lights. One worker handing out crab soup to passersby explained, "The refrigerator is out, so I thought I would hand everything out before it goes bad."

Enticed by the smell, a line formed, and 21-year-old Takumi Hata, who had come to Sapporo from Osaka for a business trip said, "I'm really thankful to be able to have something warm to eat."

Many areas around JR Sapporo Station were also dark from the power outage, and while the station building is usually closed during the night, it was left open for the stranded. Many people spent the night in the station because of the availability of restrooms and public phones.

"I came here with my friend because the blackout is terrifying," said fourth-year university student Sayu Fujimoto, 23, who lives in Sapporo's Kita Ward. "Here, there is at least some light and I feel safe."

(Japanese original by Nozomi Gemma and Junichi Tsuchiya, Hokkaido News Center)

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