A strong quake shook Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island and a tourist hot spot, early yesterday morning, killing at least 11 and injuring about 300 people. Four people were in cardiopulmonary arrest, a term used before death is officially confirmed.
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. "I thought my house would collapse".
An elderly woman in Atsuma told NHK: "My relative is still buried under the mud and has not been found yet, so I couldn't sleep at all last night". "Before we knew it our house was bent and we couldn't open the door".
As of Friday afternoon, Hokkaido Electric Power Co had restored power to 1.54 million of the island's 2.95 million households.
"This is shocking. I was always walking on this street and I had never imagined this road could collapse in such a way", said resident Sumi Noriyuki.
All trains across the island are halted. Abe's Liberal Democratic Party begins a leadership contest on Friday but said there would be no campaigning through to Sunday. Police directed traffic because signal lights were out while drink-vending machines, ubiquitous in Japan, and most ATMs were not working.
After more than a day of digging there were no reports of survivors being pulled from their crushed homes in the outskirts of the town of Atsuma, not far from the quake's epicenter.
Media reported a baby girl at a Sapporo hospital was in critical condition after the power was cut to her respirator.
It posed no tsunami risk, the country's meteorological agency said. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS. Operations at New Chitose Airport, which was closed due to leaks and other problems, have partially been restored.
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"We will devote all our energy to saving lives", Abe said.
Japan is still recovering from the worst typhoon to hit the country in 25 years, which struck the western part of the country on Tuesday, claiming at least 11 lives and causing major damage to the region's main airport.
Japan is now reeling from a deadly typhoon, the strongest in 25 years, that struck the west of the country last week, killing at least 10 people.
By the afternoon, backhoes and other earth-moving equipment in Atsuma had begun clearing debris.
Japan sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where numerous world's earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are recorded.
Around 22 people are still unaccounted for in the small northern countryside town of Atsuma, where a cluster of dwellings were wrecked when a hillside collapsed with the force of the 6.6-magnitude quake, causing deep brown scars in the landscape.
A nuclear plant - which was not operational - had to switch to its back-up power supply to keep spent fuel cool. Seismologists have said another such quake could strike the capital at any time.
Saturday marked the 95th anniversary of the Great Kanto natural disaster, which had a magnitude of 7.9 and killed more than 140,000 people in the Tokyo area.