Japan assesses damage after earthquake struck near Fukushima

The earthquake left about 150 people injured.
The earthquake left about 150 people injured.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
The earthquake left about 150 people injured.
The earthquake left about 150 people injured.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Japan began assessing damage and restoring power after a magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck off Fukushima late Saturday (Feb 13), leaving about 150 people injured and temporarily cutting power to almost a million households.

No deaths were reported, according to public broadcaster NHK, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference on Sunday that no incidents were reported from reactors. Six coal- and gas-fired power units, with a combined capacity of 3.6 gigawatts, are offline due to the quake without any timeline for restart, according to the Japan Electric Power Exchange.

The powerful tremor, which was felt in Tokyo, occurred just one month before the 10-year anniversary of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to a meltdown at three nuclear units of Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant and left about 19,000 people dead or missing. Japan's national meteorologist said that latest tremor was an aftershock of the 2011 quake.

Major industries appeared to escape significant damage. Although about 14 per cent of the country’s total crude oil refining capacity went offline because of the quake or related power outages, Toyota Motor and Nissan Motor said their factories were not affected and scheduled to operate on Monday.

Tokyo Electric Power said there was a minor overflow of water from the pool that stores used nuclear fuels at the Fukushima nuclear plants, but no uncontrolled radiation activities were seen, NHK reported.

Other businesses impacted include: Mitsui Chemicals said its Ichihara plant, which includes a naphtha cracker, in Chiba was shut due to a power outage. It would take about 10 days to restart the plant.

Idemitsu Kosan said the sole crude distillation unit and some secondary units at the Chiba refinery were halted due to power outage following the quake. Some secondary units at the Keihin refinery operated by Idemitsu's unit Toa Oil were also shut.

Eneos Holdings said it had temporarily suspended the Sendai refinery, while some units at the Negishi refinery were halted.

Murata Manufacturing temporarily suspended operations at its Fukushima and Miyagi facilities, a spokesman said Monday. The plants handle batteries, filters, RF devices and other components and the closures aren't expected to last long.

Renesas Electronics halted operations at its Ibaraki factory to inspect the building's clean rooms.

East Japan Railway said part of its high-speed bullet and local train services will remain suspended until Monday due to damages to electrical lines. The Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train line would need 10 days to resume its full service, according to NHK. East Nippon Expressway said it has closed a line connecting Fukushima and Miyagi due to a landslide.

Japan Petroleum Exploration shut its Soma LNG import terminal, which feeds a nearby gas-fired power plant, and is checking for any potential damage.

Lithium chemicals producer Orocobre said an initial inspection of the Naraha Lithium Hydroxide Plant with the construction contractor Veolia Jenets found minor damage to the site office but did not find any visible defects to plant equipment.

The Saturday-night tremor hit the Tohoku region, 220km north of Tokyo, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. More than 830,000 households in the Tohoku and Kanto regions experienced power outages, but supply resumed in most areas by Sunday morning.