Rescue workers, including members of the Self-Defense Forces, search for missing people at the sites of landslides in Atsuma, Hokkaido. (Video taken by Mitsuru Matsui)

ATSUMA, Hokkaido--Bodies retrieved from quake-triggered landslides in southwestern Hokkaido brought the overall death toll from the disaster to 20 on Sept. 8, while rescue workers continued their search for survivors.

In addition, 11 people, including 10 found in landslide debris in the town of Atsuma, showed no vital signs. Eight others remain missing.

At 12:30 a.m. on Sept. 8, a misty rain fell on members of the Self-Defense Forces who were digging through landslide debris in Atsuma, where 17 of the deaths were confirmed.

In the town's Tomisato district, the sounds of two power shovels removing earth and sand that had fallen from a mountain slope echoed in the darkness. Crushed farm equipment, wooden materials that were apparently part of houses, and glass fragments were seen around the vehicles.

Seven SDF members used lights from their vehicles in their search for survivors.

“It’s difficult to search (for missing people) here because the amount of earth is so large,” an SDF member said as he struggled to reach a house buried deep in the soil. “We will never give up. We will continue to search for them without sleeping or taking a rest.”

More than 40 hours had passed since the magnitude-6.7 earthquake struck at 3:08 a.m. on Sept. 6. The intensity of the quake reached the maximum 7 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale in Atsuma.

The survival rate in such disasters is said to decline drastically after 72 hours have passed.

According to the Hokkaido government, at least 75 houses collapsed or were seriously damaged in the earthquake.

A total of 11,900 people were staying at evacuation centers set up at 437 locations as of the morning of Sept. 8.

At New Chitose Airport in a suburb of Sapporo, international flights resumed on Sept. 8 for the first time since the quake knocked out power across Hokkaido. Domestic flights resumed earlier, and the airport’s operations have almost returned to normal.

Services also returned to normal levels on the Hokkaido Shinkansen Line between Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and Shin-Aomori stations.

However, the Japan Meteorological Agency is warning people in Hokkaido to continue to take precautions for aftershocks.

“It would not be unusual for an earthquake with an intensity of around 7 to strike again within about a week from the first temblor,” an agency official said. “The situation is unchanged.”