TOKYO Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the quake-hit northern region of Hokkaido Sunday as officials confirmed more deaths, bringing the toll to 42. Abe toured the city and commercial hub of Sapporo, where Thursday's 6.6-magnitude jolt has left houses tilted and roads cracked. He also visited hard-hit Atsuma, a small rural town which has seen most of the deaths caused by the quake. A cluster of dwellings in the town were wrecked when a hillside collapsed from the force of the quake, creating deep brown scars in the landscape. After visiting local political leaders and residents at shelters, Abe quickly returned to Tokyo to hold a cabinet meeting where he said the government will release 540 million yen ($4.9 million) from a reserve fund for the disaster. "We must create a framework in which the affected municipalities can... take emergency measures and rebuild themselves," Abe said during the cabinet meeting.
Abe also reported that the death toll rose to 42, according to local media including national broadcaster NHK and Jiji Press. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga separately told local media that one person remained missing, Jiji Press said.