One week after earthquake, Hokkaido returns to normal life

SAPPORO, Japan (The Japan News/ANN) – Thursday marked one week since a powerful earthquake struck Hokkaido.

While the government called for cutting power consumption by 20 per cent, companies have been resuming production, distribution and communications activities that were suspended due to major power outages.

Yet 1,576 people were still in 36 evacuation shelters in Hokkaido as of Thursday.

Panasonic Corp, which produces electronic parts, resumed some production at its factory in Chitose on Thursday morning. The company has already restarted operations at its plant in Obihiro, but has continued efforts to save power by turning down its air-conditioning.

Toyota Motor Hokkaido Inc, a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp in Tomakomai that manufactures transmissions and other parts, resumed operations on Monday.

The company’s production has returned to its pre-quake level. However, it has kept in-house power generators at full capacity and reduced the amount of ventilation at the factory to curb electricity consumption.

A married couple visits the site where a friend was killed in last week’s powerful earthquake in Atsuma, Hokkaido, on Thursday morning. – THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN

Skylark Holdings Co has been operating its restaurants but has turned off some lights on signboards and reduced the use of air-conditioning.

Japan Freight Railway Co, which suspended some operations due to damaged railway tracks on local lines, began using trucks for transport in the disconnected sections on Wednesday.

After the railway tracks are restored, services are expected to fully resume as early as September 22.

Three major mobile phone service providers, such as NTT Docomo Inc, had almost resumed all communications services by Wednesday.

The earthquake took the lives of 41 people. Of them, 36 died in Atsuma, which registered the highest level on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of seven.

When a siren blared at noon on Thursday, about 70 people, including Mayor Shoichiro Miyasaka and town government officials, closed their eyes and bowed in the direction of the town’s northern area, where many people died, to offer prayers.

After observing a moment of silence, Miyasaka said, “I want to pray for those who lost their lives. I want to make efforts for reconstruction with the people in the town working together.”

The town government plans to provide 30 public housing units free for one year to people who are unable to live in their houses due to earthquake damage.

When it closed applications for the housing on Wednesday, about 120 households had applied.

The municipality plans to start construction of about 100 temporary housing units as early as this month for those who cannot live in the public housing.

As of 10am Thursday, the number of applications for disaster-victim certificates filed in seven cities and towns, including Atsuma and Sapporo, was 1,626.

Kiyota Ward, Sapporo, where soil liquefaction occurred in residential areas, saw the largest number of applications at 1,350.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, 238 earthquakes believed to have been aftershocks had been recorded by 9am on Thursday. Earthquakes occurred in an area extending about 30 kilometres north and south, with 13 quakes registering four on the seismic intensity scale and 26 quakes registering three.

The agency has also found that an earthquake measuring lower five in Atsuma and Mukawa occurred on the morning of September 6.

“The probability of an earthquake that measures seven on the intensity scale has fallen, but the possibility of a quake measuring lower five or stronger is 100 times higher than normal,” an agency official said. “Caution is needed for about another week or so.”