At least 12 people are believed to have been killed and 22 others are missing after a 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck the Japanese island of Hokkaido just after 3am local time on 6 September.

The quake, which had its epicentre near the town of Atsuma, has caused landslides in some areas and cut power to the entire island, which has a population of 5.5 million people. More than a hundred aftershocks have been recorded.

Relief and rescue activities are underway to find and help any people who may be trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings. The Japanese Red Cross Society has deployed an assessment team to the affected areas and has put medical teams on standby. The Red Cross Hospitals in Hokkaido are still operational thanks to private power generators and are able to receive injured survivors.

Japan is a country with the world’s highest earthquake preparedness thanks to regular drills and widespread public knowledge on how to act in case of danger. However, as this quake took place in the middle of the night, many communities may been caught off guard.

The country staged its annual national disaster preparedness drills last weekend with the participation and support of defence forces, firefighters, police and the Japanese Red Cross.

More details on this disaster will follow shortly.