Toll from Japan quake rises to 18 as hopes fade for survivors

Strong earthquake strikes near Tomakomai in northern Japan

Hokkaido Electric Power Co, the monopoly electric company of the island, had to perform an emergency shutdown of all its fossil fuel-fired power plants after the quake, leaving its 2.95million households without power for the first time since it was created, in 1951.

The 6.7-magnitude quake struck early Thursday, centered about 17 miles east of Tomakomai on the island of Hokkaido at a depth of 21 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Japan's match with Chile has been cancelled after an quake struck the island of Hokkaido on Thursday.

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.

In Sapporo, a city of some 1.96 million residents, neon and traffic lights were out Thursday night and parts of its roads caved in, while long lines formed in front of a limited number of convenience stores and gas stands that had reopened.

Television footage from Sapporo showed crumbled roads and mud covering a main street.

Rescuers were rushing to unearth survivors and restore power Thursday after a powerful natural disaster jolted Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido, buckling roads, knocking homes off their foundations and causing entire hillsides to collapse. In Atsuma, a town of about 4,600 people, 26 were still unaccounted for.

The Japan Meteorological Agency warned of landslide disasters as Hokkaido will encounter heavy rain Friday.

The island, about the size of Austria, is a popular tourist destination known for its mountains, lakes and seafood.

Western parts of the country are still recovering from the most powerful typhoon to strike Japan in a quarter of a century, which claimed 11 lives and shut down the main regional airport.

Transport services were gradually coming back on line with bullet trains expected to resume operations later Friday morning and the main airport in Sapporo beginning to process passengers after cancelling all flights the day before.

Hokkaido's Tomari nuclear power station, which has been shut since the 2011 quake and tsunami, suffered a power outage but officials said it was cooling its spent nuclear fuel safely.

Farming, tourism and other services are big economic drivers on Hokkaido, which accounts for just 3.6 percent of Japan's gross domestic product, but there is some industry.

Manufacturers were still affected by power outages.

Moments after the initial quake, which struck 62km southeast of Sapporo, a magnitude 5.3 aftershockrocked the area, with dozens more tremors felt throughout the day.

Authorities have warned of possible aftershocks and urged people to remain cautious. At least 20 other people were injured in nearby towns.

Japan is situated on the "Ring of Fire" arc of volcanoes and oceanic trenches that partly encircles the Pacific Basin.

The station was closed after the devastating quake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011, causing the meltdown of three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex.

The tsunami also damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, leading to a series of explosions and meltdowns that spewed radiation into the air and ocean.

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