Outage cuts power to 350,000 households in Tokyo: Tepco

Passengers try to gather information after train services were suspended because of a power outage at a station in Tokyo on Oct 12, 2016.
Passengers try to gather information after train services were suspended because of a power outage at a station in Tokyo on Oct 12, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (Reuters/Bloomberg) - A power outage after a fire at an underground cable facility on the outskirts of Tokyo left some 350,000 households without electricity on Wednesday (Oct 12)  afternoon, but all power was restored in about an hour, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said.

The blackout occurred at 3.30pm local time and affected as many as 350,000 households at one point, but all power was back on line by 4.25pm, a company spokesman told Reuters over the phone.

There was a cable fire at an underground cable facility in Saitama prefecture, next to Tokyo, but the cause of the fire was not immediately known, he said, adding the company was investigating the cause.

The disruption affected government offices and brought some trains in the capital to a temporary halt.

Television footage showed plumes of dense black smoke billowing from a facility in the city of Niiza in Saitama prefecture. The fire caused the shutdown of two Tokyo Electric substations in Tokyo, Tokyo Electric spokesman Chisato Aoki said by phone.

Arson has been ruled out, according to another Tepco spokesman. When asked about the possibility of a link to terrorism, top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the government was investigating.

The outage forced some government buildings in central Tokyo to switch to back-up power, while operations on several subway lines were disrupted, according to NHK. Flights continued as scheduled at Haneda Airport.

The incident is another blow to the utility that is struggling to put the Fukushima nuclear disaster behind it.

Tepco said last week that the paying for decommissioning of the crippled plant put it at risk of insolvency.

The March 2011 nuclear accident and its fallout will ultimately cost more than 11 trillion yen, according to a study by academics including Professor Kenichi Oshima, a professor of economics at Ritsumeikan University. Tepco has estimated that decommissioning alone will cost about 2 trillion yen.