At least seven people are now confirmed dead as a result of Thursday’s powerful 6.7-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan’s northern Hokkaido island.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency said the epicenter of the quake, which struck at a depth of 40 kilometers, was just east of the city of Tomakomai. The disaster triggered massive landslides that buried hundreds of homes and sent rivers of mud through village streets.
Nearly all of the island’s 3 million households were left without power. The island’s train system and its main New Chitose Airport has been shutdown.
National broadcaster NHK says 140 people have been injured and nearly 40 are believed missing amid the destruction.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said about 25,000 self-defense troops are being sent to Hokkaido, with several thousand planning to help in search-and-rescue missions.
Three reactors at the Tomari nuclear plant were already offline for routine safety checks at the time of the quake. Officials said crews switched to a backup generator to cool its spent nuclear fuel.
In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami hit northeast Japan, destroying both external and backup power to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which led to three nuclear meltdowns and the release of radioactive materials.