Thousands of northeast Japan homes still without power after earthquake kills four
Tens of thousands of Japanese households remained without power on Thursday morning, more than 10 hours after a powerful earthquake that left at least four dead and more than 100 injured, and severed transport links to the country’s northeast, Reuters reported.
Companies including a giant chipmaker and Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) raced to assess the impact of the magnitude 7.4 quake, which struck shortly before midnight on Wednesday. Supply chain disruptions could put more pressure on already strained global output of smartphones, electronics and automobiles, read the report.
The temblor revived memories of the March 11, 2011 disaster in the same area, and left Shinkansen bullet train service indefinitely suspended, with at least one major highway to the region closed for safety checks.
According to Reuters parts of building facades tumbled into streets below in some areas, and television footage showed a steep tiled roof crumpled over a parked, crushed car and workers examining cracked highways.
Areas of Tokyo lost power immediately after the quake, though most regained it within three hours.
But some 24,270 households serviced by Tohoku Electric Power Co (9506.T) in northeast Japan remained without electricity by 10:00 a.m. local time (0100 GMT) on Thursday, although the firm said it expected most will have supply restored later in the day.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said four people had died and that the government would be on high alert for the possibility of further strong tremors over the next two to three days, Reuters reported.
According to Reuters at least 107 people were reported injured, several of them seriously, with 4,300 households still without water by mid-morning. Residents of one Fukushima city formed a long queue in a parking lot to fill up plastic tanks with water for use at home.
Renesas Electronics Corp (6723.T), the world’s biggest maker of automotive microcontroller chips, said it was checking for quake damage at three plants in Japan.
Among them is its advanced Naka plant in Ibaraki prefecture, which closed for three months following the March 2011 quake and for a shorter time after a quake in 2021. It had to halt production last year because of a fire, exacerbating a global chip shortage that is forcing auto companies to curb output.
The quake, initially measured at magnitude 7.3 but later revised up to 7.4 by the Japan Meteorological Agency, hit at 11.36 p.m. local time just off the coast of Fukushima prefecture at a depth of 60 kilometres. The 2011 quake and tsunami off Fukushima – commemorated across the country less than a week ago – left some 18,000 dead.
A tsunami warning was issued but cancelled early on Thursday morning. Some areas reported a rise in the sea level but no serious damage was immediately reported.
The 2011 disaster also set off meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. No abnormalities were reported at any nuclear power plants, although authorities had earlier said a fire alarm had been triggered at a turbine building at the crippled plant.
Manufacturers said they were trying to gauge the potential damage to their facilities in the region.
Toyota said it had cancelled the day shift at two factories in northeast Japan after workers evacuated the plants during their evening shift on Wednesday. The automaker said it will decide on the evening shift later.
Mizuho Financial Group Inc’s (8411.T) main banking arm said some of its ATMs temporarily stopped operations due to power outages, but that they had all been restored to service.
In an attempt to cover the area affected by the Shinkansen outage, All Nippon Airways (9202.T) and Japan Airlines (JAL) said they had added extra flights to northern cities. There were no forecasts of when regular rail service might be restored.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei stock average jumped, with no impact seen from the quake
IMF approves $15.6 billion loan program for Ukraine
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said its executive board had approved a four-year $15.6 billion loan program for Ukraine, part of a global $115 billion package to support the country’s economy as it battles Russia’s 13-month-old invasion.
A $2.6 billion U.S. military aid package that could include air surveillance radars, anti-tank rockets and fuel trucks for Ukraine’s fight against Russia is expected to be announced as soon as Monday, three U.S. officials said on Friday.
A senior Ukrainian official ruled out any ceasefire in Russia’s war on his country that would involve Russian forces remaining on territory they now occupy in Ukraine, Reuters reported.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia faced “existential threats” to its security and development from “unfriendly states” as he presented President Vladimir Putin with an updated foreign policy doctrine.
U.S. Secretary of State Blinken will push back on Russia’s attempts to “weaponize energy” and rally support for a Ukrainian counteroffensive when he meets NATO foreign ministers in Brussels next week, an official said.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Russia, which has decided to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, could if necessary put intercontinental nuclear missiles there too.
At least six Russian missiles hit the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv late on Thursday, and officials are gathering details about damage and casualties, the regional governor said.
The advance of Russian soldiers on the outskirts of the eastern frontline town of Bakhmut “has been halted – or nearly halted”, the director of the Ukrainian defense publication Defense Express said.
Reuters could not verify battlefield reports.
Russia said on Friday that if the United States threatened Moscow over its arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, it would “reap the whirlwind”, the state-owned news agency RIA reported.
A Nobel prize-winning Russian journalist said he did not believe that arrested American reporter Evan Gershkovich was a spy, adding he hoped diplomacy could bring about his quick release.
Russia might put strategic nukes in Belarus, leader says
Russian strategic nuclear weapons might be deployed in Belarus along with part of Russia’s tactical nuclear arsenal, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Friday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last week that his country intended to deploy tactical, comparatively short-range and small-yield nuclear weapons in Belarus, AP reported.
The strategic nuclear weapons such as missile-borne warheads that Lukashenko mentioned during his state-of-the nation address would pose an even greater threat, if Moscow moves them to the territory of its neighbor and ally.
Belarus was a staging ground for amassing Russian troops before the invasion of Ukraine a little over 13 months ago. Lukashenko, the only person to have served as president since the country’s independence from the Soviet Union, delivered his annual address amid escalating tensions over the conflict in Ukraine.
Both he and Putin have alleged that Western powers want to ruin Russia and Belarus.
“Putin and I will decide and introduce here, if necessary, strategic weapons, and they must understand this, the scoundrels abroad, who today are trying to blow us up from inside and outside,” the Belarusian leader said. “We will stop at nothing to protect our countries, our state and their peoples.”
Earlier in the address, Lukashenko called for a cease-fire in Ukraine.
A truce must be announced without any preconditions, and all movement of troops and weapons must be halted, he said.
Belarus and Russia have intensified their cooperation since the start of the Ukraine war. The Russian military has used its troops and missiles stationed in Belarus, although no Belarusian troops have participated in the fighting.
Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan all relinquished nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Under the so-called Budapest Memorandum that accompanied giving up the weapons, Russia, the United States and Britain agreed to respect the territorial integrity of those countries.
Ukraine has repeatedly complained that Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and the 2022 invasion violate that agreement.
Lukashenko said Friday that he did not want to lose his country’s nuclear weapons but was pressured into doing so by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
Fire on Philippine ferry kills 29, including children; 225 rescued
Philippine rescuers searched the smouldering ruins of a burnt-out ferry on Thursday for any survivors or more victims of a fire that swept through the inter-island vessel killing 29 people, including a 6-month old baby, Reuters quoted authorities said.
Investigators have yet to identify the cause of the fire that started at about 11 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Wednesday off the southern island of Basilan, when many passengers were asleep in air-conditioned cabins on the ferry’s lower deck.
“I thought I was dreaming but when I opened my eyes it was dark and we were surrounded by smoke,” Mina Nani, 46, a passenger on the MV Lady Mary Joy 3, told DZRH radio.
She said she survived by jumping off the vessel and sharing a floatation device with another passenger until they were rescued.
There were conflicting figures of the number of people on the ferry, which officials said was not overloaded. The coast guard said 225 people including 36 crew were rescued, read the report.
Eleven people, including three children, drowned after jumping off the burning ship, while 18 died in the blaze on board, Governor Hadjiman Hataman Salliman told DZRH.
“We have yet to explore the entire ship because it’s still hot,” Salliman said of the beached vessel.
Commodore Rejard Marfe, coast guard chief in the Mindanao region, told Reuters there was “chaos” after the spreading fire roused people from their sleep and the 18 victims found onboard were “totally burnt”.
The Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, has a poor record for maritime safety, with vessels often overcrowded and many ageing ships in use, Reuters reported.
In May, at least seven people died in a fire on a high-speed ferry carrying 134 people.
In 1987, about 5,000 people died in the world’s worst peacetime shipping disaster, when an overloaded passenger ferry Dona Paz collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro Island south of the capital, Manila.
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