Nine dead in Japan earthquake as hillsides collapse

  • 07/09/2018

At least nine people have died after a 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Frantic rescue efforts are underway to find survivors buried in their homes by landslides.

The quake hit shortly before 3am local time on Thursday, 112km south of Sapporo City on the island of Hokkaido. It struck at a shallow depth of just 33km.

The worst of the damage was near the epicentre in the island's rural south where entire hillsides collapsed, ITV News reports. 

Up to 25,000 troops have been dispatched in the area to help search for the dozens who are still missing, buried in what remains of their homes. 

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told local media on Thursday more than 800 landslides have been reported. 

Authorities have warned of more major aftershocks in the wake of the massive quake. 

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.

Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, said saving people's lives is the government's utmost priority in the face of yet another disaster. 

It comes after eight people died earlier this week when the biggest typhoon in 25 years lashed Japan's coast, bringing heavy rain and reports of winds topping 170km/h.

The storm brought down a railway station roof in Kyoto, while in Osaka it blew a tanker into a bridge.