Five people have been confirmed dead after a magnitude 6.7 earthquake rocked Japan's northern prefecture of Hokkaido early Thursday morning. Another 4 people do not have vital signs. About 300 are injured and about 30 more are missing.
Meteorological Agency officials say the quake measured the strongest possible level on Japan's seismic intensity scale.
Toshiyuki Matsumori of the Japan Meteorological Agency said, "We punched in seismic data from new locations to analyze today's earthquake. In the town of Atsuma, the earthquake measured 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale."
The quake hit shortly after 3 AM on the western part of the prefecture, leaving everyone in the dark.
There have been dozens of tremors since then.
Evacuation orders have been issued in some areas.
As dawn broke, the extent of the damage became clear.
In the town of Atsuma, one of the worst hit places near the epicenter, mudslides have left the mountains bare.
Buildings in the area also suffered damage. Some were engulfed by mud and rocks while fallen trees have blocked roads. All of the people who are missing are from this town.
Rescue workers are frantically searching for people who might be buried in the rubble.
A resident told NHK the tremors were at a scale he had never experienced before.
Some residents have been lifted to safety from their homes. The extent of the damage is still being assessed but throughout the prefecture. Buildings are tilted and roads are cracked and buckled.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the government has set up an emergency task force that is putting a priority on search and rescue. He said 25-thousand Self-Defense Force personnel would be sent.
Evacuation shelters are being set up in many towns and cities.