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Japanese Companies Rush to Gauge Effects of Earthquake

The magnitude 7.4 quake revived memories of the March 11, 2011 quake and tsunami off Fukushima – commemorated across the country less than a week ago

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People stand on a beach to commemorate the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that devastated the country's northeast. Photo: Reuters

 

Thousands of Japanese households remained without power on Thursday as companies worked to assess damage the morning after a powerful quake hit the northeast coast, leaving at least four dead and nearly 100 injured, some seriously.

The magnitude 7.4 quake, which struck shortly before midnight on Wednesday revived memories of the March 11, 2011 quake and tsunami off Fukushima – commemorated across the country less than a week ago – which left some 18,000 dead.

Transport links to the northeast were severed, with Shinkansen bullet train service indefinitely suspended and at least one major highway to the region closed for safety checks.

Manufacturers were trying to gauge the potential damage to their facilities.

Renesas Electronics, the world’s biggest maker of automotive microcontroller chips, said it was checking for quake damage at three plants.

Meanwhile Toyota Motor said it had cancelled the day shift at two factories in northeast Japan after workers evacuated the plants during their evening shift on Wednesday. The carmaker said it would decide on the evening shift later.

 

ATM Operations Back Online

Mizuho Financial Group‘s main banking arm said some of its ATMs temporarily stopped operations due to power outages, but that they had all been restored to service.

Parts of Tokyo lost power immediately after the quake, though most regained it within three hours.

But some 36,400 households serviced by Tohoku Electric Power in northeast Japan remained without electricity by 9 a.m. local time on Thursday, although the firm said it expected most will have supply restored later in the day.

Fumio Kishida, prime minister,  said the government would be on high alert for the possibility of further strong tremors over the next two to three days.

The quake, initially measured at magnitude 7.3 but later revised up to 7.4 by the Japan Meteorological Agency, hit at 11.36 p.m. local time just off the coast of Fukushima prefecture at a depth of 60 kilometres.

A tsunami warning was issued but cancelled early on Thursday morning. Some areas reported a rise in the sea level but no serious damage was immediately reported.

The 2011 disaster also set off meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station but no abnormalities were reported at any nuclear plants, although a fire alarm had been triggered at a turbine building.

 

  • Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell

 

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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