Evening Express

Japan earthquake death toll rises

The death toll has hit 39 from a powerful earthquake that struck the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido last week.

One person remained missing in the town of Atsuma, where multiple landslides triggered by the quake slammed into houses at the foot of steep hills.

Rescue workers used diggers and shovels to search for the missing in a tangle of dirt, fallen trees and the rubble of homes left by the landslides. All but four of the victims were from Atsuma, a community of 4,600 people.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Kiyota ward on the eastern edge of Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido.

Rescue workers are searching for the missing (Yu Nakajima/Kyodo News via AP)

In some parts of Kiyota, the earth liquefied and sank as much as a metre, tilting houses, cracking roads and unleashing a mudflow that solidified and trapped vehicles in car parks.

The magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck before daybreak on Thursday and knocked out power and train service across Hokkaido, home to 5.4 million people.

It took two days to restore electricity to most households. A few hundred were still without power on Sunday, mostly in Atsuma.

About 2,600 people were staying in temporary shelters, down from a peak of 16,600, the Hokkaido government said.