Japan restores power to nearly all of Hokkaido following quake


Japan had restored power to nearly all of the northern island of Hokkaido as of Saturday morning after a historic earthquake on Thursday knocked out electricity to the entire prefecture, home to more than 5 million people.

The local government said Friday that 18 people were killed, and 19 were still missing, the Nikkei reported. Hokkaido Electric Power Co., the region’s main utility, says power was returned to about 99 percent of the nearly 3 million buildings that had lost power on Thursday.

Life on Hokkaido is returning to normal after the magnitude-6.7 quake — the most damaging to hit Japan in more than two years — destroyed multiple buildings, caused landslides and damaged the region’s biggest coal-fired power plant, which remains offline.

Economy Minister Hiroshige Seko requested that households and businesses use as little electricity as possible until the key power plant returns to service, as any sudden uptick in demand could lead to more blackouts.

Hokkaido makes up nearly a quarter of Japan’s land mass but it is one of the least populated regions. Its scenery and world-class skiing have made it a top destination for tourists, though its economy accounts for only about 3.5 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.