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Hokkaido earthquake 2018

My son’s plans changed last week. He’d booked a campsite at Lake Shikotsu in Hokkaido, but the road to the campsite was closed due to damage from Typhoon 21 (Jebi—the strongest typhoon to hit Japan in 25 years). Instead, he pitched his tent 35 km from the small town of Atsuma. At 3:08 am the next morning (September 6th), he suddenly woke up, finding himself face down, both hands spread out to stop himself from “drowning.”

“The earth was moving like a giant wave, pitching up and down, moving from left to right, then in a circular motion!” he said. When he managed to get out of his tent, everything was pitch black—no lights anywhere.

The 2018 Hokkaido Eastern Iburi earthquake (北海道胆振東部地震) occurred at a depth of 33.4 kilometers under Atsuma and at the highest level of intensity on the Japanese scale. This is the first time that an earthquake of this intensity has occurred in Hokkaido, the northernmost prefecture of Japan, and only the sixth time one of this size has been recorded in Japan since the system was put in place in 1949. Atsuma is only 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the island’s international airport, New Chitose Airport, and 60 kilometres (39 miles) from the centre of the main city of Sapporo.

The earthquake caused extensive damage to the coal-fired thermal power plant in Atsuma, resulting in a total electrical blackout for the whole of Hokkaido and its 5.3 million residents. The water supply to hundreds of thousands of residences was also cut off. With no electricity, medical personal scrambled to keep their patients alive, especially those who needed dialysis and powered breathing apparatus.

Forty people died and over 640 were injured. More than 32 homes were completely destroyed, and thousands of others damaged. Many roads became impassable due to buckling, debris, and soil liquefaction.

Many aftershocks continue to occur. This disrupts sleep and prolongs the emotional distress of the original event.

Amazingly, as of September 10th, power has been restored to 99% of homes and water to most residences outside the immediate Atsuma-Abira area. All subways, 80% of trains, and most flights have resumed. Food supplies to supermarkets are gradually returning to shelves (although the farming and dairy industry in Hokkaido may take time to recover). Dedicated workers are fixing roads.

The emotional effect on all of us, especially the elderly, the sick, and children, continues to take its toll. The sound of emergency sirens puts many of us on edge. We are in a state of shock.

Thank you for praying and continuing to pray!

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.

So we will not fear, even if the earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea…

‘Be silent, and know that I am God!

I will be honored by every nation, I will be honored throughout the world.’

Psalm 46:1-2, 10 (NLT)

By Dale, OMF missionary

Written September 10, 2018

Will you pray for Japan?

  • Pray for those who’ve lost loved ones, that they would be comforted.
  • The local churches as they assess how and what they can do to help.
  • For the Christians and missionaries in Hokkaido, that they would be a comfort to those around them and have opportunities to point people to God our refuge.

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