Search efforts focus on town near epicenter

Search efforts focus on town near epicenter

Rescuers are searching around the clock to find survivors following a deadly earthquake in Hokkaido.
17 people are dead and 21 more are missing.

The search effort is focused near the epicenter in the town of Atsuma. That's where all the missing people are from.

Thursday's quake registered the strongest possible level on Japan's seismic intensity scale, setting off huge landslides that wiped out many homes.

People in the town are keeping a close eye on the rescue operation. One of them is Tenma Takimoto. His younger sister, Maika, was buried by rubble.

He says, "'Good night' were the last words we exchanged that night. I feel so sorry that I can't do anything to help her. It's heartbreaking."

The 16-year-old high school student was later confirmed dead.

There have been more than 100 aftershocks following the magnitude-6.7 quake.

A resident says, "I couldn't sleep a minute because of the tremors."

Officials warn that strong quakes could hit Hokkaido in the coming week.

The tremor also battered parts of Sapporo, the prefecture's capital. Soil liquefaction caused buildings to tilt and roads to crack.

A resident said, "I'm speechless. I've lived here for 20 years, but have never seen anything like this before."

Thousands of people evacuated to shelters. Officials are asking supermarkets and convenience stores for supplies, because emergency provisions of food and water are running low.

Stores are also short of daily necessities. This one has run out of drinking water, flashlights and noodles. The manager says he doesn't know when the store will be re-stocked.

He says, "We feel bad for our customers. I'm sorry we don't have much left. But hopefully people can still find what they need."

The prefecture's electric utility says power has been restored to more than half of Hokkaido's 3 million homes.
It says most of the rest will be back online by Saturday.

Restoring power means transportation services like Shinkansen bullet trains are running again.

So are streetcars in Sapporo and the city's subway. Most local train services are still suspended.

With power back on at New Chitose Airport's terminal building, domestic flights have resumed. Some international flights will restart on Saturday.