Magnitude 6.6 earthquake hits northern Japan near major city

The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude 6.6 earthquake has hit northern Japan near a major city.

The agency says earthquake struck the island of Hokkaido about 3 a.m. Thursday and had a depth of 33.4 kilometres (21 miles).

The quake’s epicenter is about 27.3 kilometres (17 miles) east of the city of Tomakomai, which has a population of about 175,000, and 64.8 kilometres (40.3 miles) southeast of Sapporo, which is a major metropolitan area of 1.9 million people.

The Kyodo news service reports that in Tokyo, the central government set up a liaison unit at the crisis management centre of the prime minister’s office to gather information on the temblor.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga says Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed officials to ascertain the extent of damage and extend a helping hand to those affected.

The quake triggered a blackout across a wide area in Hokkaido. It also affected telephone service and television broadcasting in Sapporo.

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