Power fully restored in Osaka after morning blackout hit 34,000 homes and shut hospitals

A police officer directing traffic at a crossing, after the signal lights stopped working due to a massive blackout, in Osaka on Aug 23, 2017.
A police officer directing traffic at a crossing, after the signal lights stopped working due to a massive blackout, in Osaka on Aug 23, 2017.PHOTO: YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

TOKYO - Power was fully restored in affected areas in Osaka before 5pm on Wednesday (4pm Singapore time), nearly 12 hours after a major blackout struck at dawn, which cut off power to 34,000 homes and shut down hospitals and 24-hour convenience stores.

The blackout occurred at 5.40am on Wednesday (Aug 23), mainly in the city of Suita in central Osaka. Some 29,520 homes were affected in Suita, with the rest in the neighbouring Higashiyodogawa ward and Settsu city.

Traffic lights went black at several major intersections and thoroughfares, with traffic police activated to direct vehicles. Train systems, which use a separate power network, were unaffected.

 
The Osaka Police Department said police reports have been lodged of a loud boom occurring underground near the Takakijo district in Suita seconds before power was shut off. A manhole cover was also reportedly dislodged.
 
The Kansai Electric Power Company (Kepco) is investigating the cause of the incident as electricity leakage through the underground transmission cable that runs beneath Suita. 
 
The cable appeared to have been ruptured, leading to the power outage, Kepco added, apologising for “causing inconvenience to so many people”.
 
The  incident led hospitals and clinics to temporarily suspend outpatient medical examination, and delayed the opening of  supermarkets which had to find ways to keep fresh produce from rotting in the brutal summer heat.
 
The Suita City government issued a heatstroke prevention alert as fans and air-conditioners stopped working. Temperatures on Wednesday soared to a high of 34 deg C, while the perceived “feels like” temperature hit 40 deg C.
 
The blackout in Osaka follows a widespread power outage in Taiwan last Tuesday (Aug 15). In that incident lasting five hours, power was cut to 6.7 million – or half – of Taiwan’s businesses and homes across 17 cities and counties, with shopping malls and business districts in the capital of Taipei plunged into darkness.
 
The blackout was caused by “structural problems” and human error involving the replacement of equipment, which ultimately affected the operations of a state-owned Taiwan Power Co power plant, state-owned gas supplier CPC Corp said.
 
CPC chairman Chen Chin-te stepped down last Friday, three days after the blackout, following the resignation of the island’s minister for economics affairs, Mr Lee Chih-Kung.