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Death toll nears 40 from northern Japan earthquake

Japan’s Self-Defense Force members work at the site of a landslide triggered by Thursday’s earthquake in Atsuma, Hokkaido, northern Japan Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018. Japanese authorities say dozens of people have been confirmed dead from a powerful earthquake that struck the northern island of Hokkaido last week. (Yu Nakajima/Kyodo News via AP)
Summary

Close to 40 people have been confirmed dead after a powerful earthquake hit northern Japan last week

Rescue workers search for missing people as the death toll now sits at 37 following a powerful earthquake in Japan

TOKYO – Japanese authorities say 37 people have been confirmed dead from a powerful earthquake that struck the northern island of Hokkaido last week.

The Hokkaido government said Sunday that two people remain missing and one other person has no vital signs. Rescue workers are using backhoes and shovels to search for the missing in a tangle of dirt and the rubble of homes left by multiple landslides in the town of Atsuma. All but four of the victims are from the community of 4,600 people.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a hard-hit area of Sapporo, the main city in Hokkaido.

Rescuers carry the body of a victim at the site of a landslide triggered by Thursday’s earthquake in Atsuma, Hokkaido, northern Japan Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018. Japanese rescue workers and troops searched Saturday for the missing for a third straight day in a northern hamlet buried by landslides from a powerful earthquake. Power was restored to most households and international flights resumed to the main airport serving the Hokkaido region. (Yohei Nishimura/Kyodo News via AP)

The magnitude 6.7 earthquake before daybreak Thursday knocked out power and train service across Hokkaido. It took two days to restore electricity to most of the island of 5.4 million people.

Three reactors at the Tomari nuclear plant were offline for routine safety checks, but they are running on backup generators that kicked in after losing external power because of the island-wide blackouts, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said. Spent fuel in storage pools was safely cooled on backup power that can last for a week, the agency said.

The powerful earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that hit northerneast Japan destroyed both external and backup power to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, causing meltdowns.