Sapporo, Japan: A magnitude 6.6 earthquake has hit northern Japan near a major city, according to the US Geological Survey.
The agency says the earthquake struck the island of Hokkaido about 3am on Thursday and had a depth of 33.4 kilometres.
The quake's epicentre was about 27.3 kilometres east of the city of Tomakomai, which has a population of about 175,000, and 64.8 kilometres southeast of Sapporo, a major metropolitan area of 1.9 million people.
The Kyodo news service reported 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 said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed officials to ascertain the extent of damage and extend a helping hand to those affected.
The news service reported that the quake triggered a blackout across a wide area in Hokkaido. It also affected telephone services and television broadcasting in Sapporo.
The quake comes as Japan copes with the effects of Typhoon Jebi which has inundated the western coastline of the nation, causing deaths.
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