World / Asia-Pacific

Japan quake forces businesses to halt operations

(Xinhua) Updated: 2016-04-15 17:23

TOKYO - A number of businesses have been forced to suspend operations in the wake of a powerful earthquake that struck southwestern Japan on Thursday and hundreds of aftershocks that continued through Friday.

Manufacturers including Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. had to halt operations following the magnitude-6.5 earthquake that struck at 9.26 pm in Kumamoto Prefecture on Thursday evening, located in southern Kyushu.

Toyota halted work at three factories in Fukuoka Prefecture Friday morning, with one being cleared to restart later in the day, while production at Honda's motorbike plant in Kumamoto Prefecture has been suspended indefinitely.

Some of Toyota's other operations have also been affected by the quake, owing to supply chain disruptions, the automaker said.

Tire maker Bridgestone has also stopped work at a facility in the quake-hit prefecture and among bluechip electronic makers, Sony has shutdown production lines at its image sensor factory, although confirmed that its team of 1,000 personnel at the plant in Kumamoto were all safe and accounted for.

Multinational electronics and electrical equipment Mitsubishi Electric has also suspended operations at its liquid-crystal display plant and semiconductor factories in Kumamoto, with inspections and damage assessments currently being conducted, it said.

Kyushu Railway Company, known here as JR Kyushu, has suspended the operation of its Shinkansen bullet train services, due to the multiple aftershocks, which saw one of its trains derailed. The train was out of service at the time and no one was injured as a result, it said.

The transport ministry said that traffic in the region has been widely disrupted as portions of the Kyushu Expressway and the Minami Kyushu Expressway have been closed due to damage. In addition, at least four flights to and from Kumamoto airport have been cancelled, with others being delayed, the ministry said. The airport itself is located in the hardest-hit town of Mashiki.

Following electricity being cut to 14,500 households, a gas supply fault affecting 4,600 households, and some 25,000 households unable to receive water, Japanese convenience stores, including FamilyMart Co., Lawson Inc. and Seven & i Holdings Co. are shipping emergency water to the hardest-hit areas.

The quake, which peaked at 7 on Japan's seismic scale, the highest since the 2011 Tohoku quake, was followed by more than 103 aftershocks according to the weather agency, some measuring in the upper-six range on Japan's scale.

The weather agency has warned of more aftershocks in the hours and days to come, as well as possible landslides and more buildings collapsing, as inclement weather is now expected to hit the already disaster-struck region overnight and through the weekend.

Nine people have died as a result of the quake and 1,100 others injured, according to the latest local reports from public broadcaster NHK.

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