Fears grow for Japan quake survivors as death toll rises

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Searchers used dogs, backhoes and shovels to dig through mud and debris on Friday looking for survivors beneath the landslides caused by a powerful quake in northern Japan that left at least 16 people dead or presumed dead.

Rescuers were using search dogs, backhoes and shovels as they dug through tons of mud and debris from the landslides triggered by the magnitude 6.7 quake that struck before dawn Thursday.

Nearly 12 hours later, power was restored to parts of Sapporo, Hokkaido's capital, and Asahikawa, its second-biggest city.

Hokkaido's main airport was closed, at least for the day.

A total of 28 homes were completely destroyed in the quake, including from landslide damage.

After more than a day of digging there were no reports of survivors being pulled from their crushed homes in the outskirts of the town of Atsuma, not far from the quake's epicenter.

"On behalf of Japan Football Association, I send my deepest condolences and sincerest sympathies to those affected by the powerful quake that struck the central-eastern part of Iburi region in Hokkaido early this morning", JFA president Tashima Kohzo said in a statement.

The government said there was damage to Hokkaido Electric's Tomato-Atsuma plant, which supplied half the island's 2.95 million households.

All domestic and worldwide flights had been suspended at New Chitose Airport in the prefecture on September 6, but flights resumed in the morning of September 7, with a Vanilla Air plane landing following a flight from Narita Airport near Tokyo.

Industry minister Hiroshige Seko urged homes and offices already with power to limit their use as much as possible.

"I've done everything I can but there is no way I can get out of Hokkaido", said Masahiro Torimoto, 49, who was scheduled to travel to Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, to take part in a national softball tournament. A mudslide left several cars half buried, and the ground subsided, leaving drainpipes and manhole covers protruding by more than a meter (yard) in some places.

The risk of housing collapses and landslides had increased, he said, urging residents "to pay full attention to seismic activity and rainfall and not to go into unsafe areas". The land slid all the way down and I thought I would die. "So, I try to think I am lucky in this unfortunate situation". I might have lost my life. However, damage to generators at the plant meant a full restoration of power could take more than a week, Mr Seko said.

The last few months have brought a string of calamities in Japan.

Japan is still recovering from the worst typhoon to hit the country in 25 years, which struck the western part of the country on Tuesday, claiming at least 11 lives and causing major damage to the region's main airport.

"The forecasts are for rain, and that could bring more landslides, so please continue to exercise extreme caution", he said. AP writer Elaine Kurtenbach contributed from Tokyo.

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