Photo/IllutrationA car is trapped in mud caused by liquefaction in Sapporo's Kiyota Ward. Huge cracks were also found on roads in the area. (Shigetaka Kodama)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Transportation services returned to parts of Hokkaido on Sept. 7, a day after the most intense earthquake to hit the prefecture killed at least 16 people and plunged the entire island into darkness.

With electricity restored, operations on the Hokkaido Shinkansen Line linking Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station in Hokkaido with Tokyo Station resumed around noon, while domestic flights landed at New Chitose Airport in the morning.

Airport officials said international flights would resume on Sept. 8.

Although Hokkaido Railway Co. canceled all special express runs for Sept. 7, it planned to resume operations on local lines. Train operations for the route connecting Sapporo Station and New Chitose Airport were running in the afternoon.

The Sapporo city government resumed its streetcar operations in the morning and all three subway lines at 2:50 p.m.

All households on Hokkaido were without power at one time on Sept. 6, after the magnitude-6.7 earthquake struck at 3:08 a.m. and seriously damaged a crucial coal-fired thermal plant in Atsuma.

Hokkaido Electric Power Co. said in a report to the Hokkaido government that electricity had been restored to about 1.51 million households as of noon Sept. 7.

In addition to using hydroelectric power plants, the utility resumed operations at thermal power plants in Sunagawa, Naie and Kushiro.

Although about 1.44 million households in Hokkaido were still without power, central government officials said the figure could be reduced to about 550,000 by the end of Sept. 7.

Full restoration of power to all households was expected to take at least one week.

Hokkaido Electric Power was placing priority on restoring electricity to vital facilities, such as hospitals, transportation companies and evacuation centers.

The utility plans to purchase electricity from Hokkaido companies that generate their own power. It will also receive electricity shared by Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric Power Co.

Through such measures, the Hokkaido utility is seeking to secure a supply of about 3.12 megawatts by the end of Sept. 7, or about 80 percent of the maximum demand before the earthquake.

The power outage was extended because of quake damage to three generating units at the Atsuma plant, the largest thermal power plant in Hokkaido.

Hiroshige Seko, the industry minister, said at a Sept. 7 news conference that restoring operations at the Atsuma plant would be key in complete restoration of electricity, but cautioned that at least a week would be needed for full restoration of operations.

The quake’s epicenter was in the Iburi region in the southwestern part of Hokkaido. For the first time in Hokkaido, the quake’s intensity reached a maximum 7 on the Japanese seismic scale in Atsuma, a town that is now the site of a huge search-and-rescue operation.

Police, firefighters and members of the Self-Defense Forces were looking for survivors in houses buried in massive landslides that hit the town.

Many of the 26 people still listed as missing in the aftermath of the quake are believed to be Atsuma residents. The overall death toll from the quake has reached 16.

According to the Hokkaido government, the quake also destroyed or severely damaged 55 buildings. A total of 7,339 people evacuated to 768 evacuation centers in Hokkaido.

The water supply had been cut off in 34 municipalities, including Sapporo, affecting 38,310 households.

A day before the earthquake, heavy rain from Typhoon No. 21 loosened the soil on hills and mountains, increasing the risk of landslides.

The Japan Meteorological Agency forecast heavy rain and lightning for Hokkaido until about noon on Sept. 8.

Officials urged caution about possible landslides, especially in areas where foundations were weakened in the previous day's shaking.