Thousands of people without electricity in Japan after an earthquake of 7.4 dead

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A broken road is seen in Soma, Fukushima prefecture, following a strong earthquake. PHOTO: REUTERS

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A broken road is seen in Soma, Fukushima prefecture, following a strong earthquake. PHOTO: REUTERS

Thousands of Japanese households were left without power on Thursday (March 17) as businesses scrambled to assess the damage the morning after a powerful earthquake hit Japan’s northeast coast, killing at least four people and nearly 100 injured, some seriously.

The 7.4 magnitude earthquake, which struck shortly before midnight on Wednesday and brought back memories of the March 11, 2011 disaster, also severed transport links to the northeast, with the Shinkansen bullet train service suspended indefinitely and at least one major highway to the region closed. for security checks.

Parts of Tokyo lost power immediately after the earthquake, although most recovered within three hours.

But some 36,400 homes served by Tohoku Electric Power Co in northeast Japan remained without power as of 9 a.m. local time on Thursday, although the company said it expected most be restored later in the day.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said four people died and the government would be on alert for the possibility of further strong tremors over the next two to three days.

The earthquake, initially measured at a magnitude of 7.3 but later revised to 7.4 by the Japan Meteorological Agency, struck at 11:36 p.m. local time just off Fukushima prefecture at a depth of 60 km .

The 2011 earthquake and tsunami off Fukushima – commemorated across the country less than a week ago – claimed some 18,000 lives.

A tsunami warning was issued but canceled early Thursday morning.

Some areas reported sea level rise, but no serious damage was reported immediately.

The 2011 disaster also caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

No abnormalities were reported at the nuclear power plants, although authorities said earlier that a fire alarm had gone off at a crippled plant’s turbine building.

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

Renesas Electronics Corp, the world’s largest maker of automotive microcontroller chips, said it was checking for earthquake damage at three factories in Japan.

Meanwhile, Toyota Motor Corp said it canceled the day shift at two factories in northeastern Japan after workers evacuated the factories during their evening shift on Wednesday. The automaker said it would decide the evening shift later.

The main banking arm of Mizuho Financial Group Inc said some of its ATMs had temporarily ceased operations due to power outages, but they had all been returned to service.

In an attempt to cover the area affected by the Shinkansen outage, All Nippon Airways said it has added additional flights to the northern city of Sendai. There was no forecast as to when regular rail service might be restored.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei stock average jumped, with no impact from the earthquake.

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