An earthquake in Japan killed two, shut down factories and cut power to thousands of homes

TOKYO (Reuters) – A powerful earthquake off Japan’s northeastern coast cut water and electricity to thousands of homes on Thursday and forced factories to suspend operations, adding to supply chain problems for smartphone, electronics and car makers worldwide.

The 7.4-magnitude quake struck just before midnight on Wednesday east of Fukushima Prefecture, the same region that was hit by Japan’s largest earthquake 11 years ago.

At least two people were killed and 161 injured in the latest quake, according to government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno, while thousands died in the 2011 disaster, when a 9.1-magnitude earthquake also triggered a tsunami and caused the collapse of a nuclear power plant.

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No anomalies were reported at any of the nuclear power plants this time around, although authorities said a fire alarm went off in the plant’s turbine building, which was paralyzed in 2011.

However, the earthquake continues to wreak havoc on the industry.

Chip manufacturer Renesas Electronics Corp (6723.T) A major supplier of auto chips, it halted production at two semiconductor manufacturers and partially halted production at a third.

Among them was the Naka plant in Ibaraki Prefecture north of Tokyo, which supplies semiconductors to car companies around the world. Chip shortages caused by disruptions related to COVID-19 have already forced many auto companies to cut production.

Electronic component maker Murata Manufacturing (6981.T) It also halted operations at its factories, as a fire broke out in a factory that makes parts for smartphones in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Sony group company (6758.T) Production halted at two plants in Miyagi Prefecture and a third plant in Yamagata Prefecture. The facilities produce storage media, laser diodes, and image sensors.

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Toyota Motor Corporation (7203.T) It said it would resume work at reduced capacity at two plants on Thursday evening after suspending operations once the earthquake struck.

Eneos Corp., Japan’s largest refiner, has shut down the Sendai refinery including its 145,000 barrels per day crude oil distillation unit.

Authorities indefinitely suspended Shinkansen express train service, and closed at least one major highway to the area for safety checks.

bad memories

Parts of street facades in some areas of Fukushima have crumbled. Television footage showed a steep-tiled roof over a wrecked parked car and workers checking the cracked highways.

“It felt different (from the 2011 earthquake), it was massive. I had to hold on to something to stay upright,” said Oi Hoshino, who owns a bar in Fukushima.

One of her clients ignored the initial tremors, but when the biggest hit hit, he stood up and shouted, “That’s big!” She remembers, though, that the only damage to her tape was broken mugs and picture frames.

About 300 kilometers south of Fukushima, areas of the capital, Tokyo, were without power for nearly three hours following the quake.

An earlier tsunami warning for the northeastern coast was lifted and electricity was fully restored to the capital by the early hours of Thursday, although people in some parts of Fukushima were still waiting for electricity by early evening.

Matsuno said the SDF was transporting water to communities whose water systems had been damaged, and that residents of a city in Fukushima queued to fill plastic tanks.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the government will be on high alert for the possibility of more strong tremors over the next two to three days.

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The earthquake occurred at 11:36 p.m. local time (1400 GMT) off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture at a depth of 60 kilometers, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The 2011 earthquake was commemorated across the country less than a week ago, with a magnitude of 9.1, along with a tsunami that left about 18,000 dead.

However, the recent earthquake has revived persistent concerns about nuclear safety, posing a potential challenge to Kishida’s efforts to restart decommissioned nuclear plants. Read more

(This story is paraphrased to remove the extraneous word in paragraph 3)

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Additional reporting by Sakura Murakami, Makiko Yamazaki, Elaine Lies, Tim Kelly and Goo Min Park; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell, Christopher Cushing and Simon Cameron-Moore

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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