At least 2 dead and 32 are missing after a powerful earthquake rocked northern Japan, with reports of collapsed buildings and people trapped.
The magnitude 6.6 earthquake hit shortly before 3am local time, 112km south of Sapporo City on the island of Hokkaido. It struck at a shallow depth of just 33km.
Dozens of aftershocks have already been felt, with many magnitude 5 or higher and some lasting more than 30 seconds at a time. Authorities have warned people of at least a week of aftershocks to come and the government has set up an emergency taskforce to respond to the situation.
Public broadcaster NHK reported the first confirmed fatality and said 120 people had also been injured after the 6.7-magnitude quake. The number missing had earlier been put at 19.
All the missing are from the small town of Atsuma, with five people thought to be buried under the rubble caused by major landslides in the area.
Aerial footage showed dozens of landslides exposing barren hillsides near Atsuma, with mounds of reddish earth and fallen trees piled up at the edge of green fields. The collapsed remains of what appeared to be houses or barns were scattered about.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told local media more than 800 landslides have been reported. Rescue workers are evacuating the town’s residents by helicopter.
Japan’s disaster management agency FDMA said at least two homes had collapsed in Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido prefecture with a population of nearly 2 million people. Sewage had flooded into some streets.
The entire island was without power after Hokkaido Electric Power Co said it conducted an emergency shutdown of all its fossil fuel-fired power plants following the quake.
The local nuclear power plants have also been shut down and authorities say there has not been any damage to critical facilities.
Hospitals are running on emergency backup power, with several turning away emergency patients who they cannot treat due to the outage.
Crews are working to restore power to the nearly 3 million buildings on the island, and authorities say 25,000 defence force troops are being deployed to aid the rescue effort.
Many traffic lights have no power and rail operators in Hokkaido have suspended all services, with no indication of when they will resume. Schools have also been closed.
Public bus services have been suspended and roads have been left with cracks, holes, and liquefaction, leaving many stranded. Police have received multiple reports of injuries and people trapped, and are investigating the extent of the damage.
The United States Geological Survey said the earthquake is not expected to generate a tsunami.
The earthquake comes just hours after south Japan was battered by Typhoon Jebi.
Japan is situated on the Ring of Fire arc of volcanoes and oceanic trenches that partly encircles the Pacific Basin and accounts for about 20 per cent of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.