Electricity cuts came into affect in several areas of Tokyo and eastern Japan on Monday night, causing confusion on the country’s transport networks. Kyodo News reported yesterday that train services were significantly disrupted on Monday and Tuesday after railways cancelled several services, with warnings that the disruption could last throughout April. The blackouts started at 5pm on Monday night. Tokyo’s subway operator however, was reported saying that it was able to operate approximately 80% of its schedule services yesterday. Regional electric companies, including Tokyo Electric Power Co, are rationing electricity due to the fear of supply shortages following the recent explosions at two nuclear power plants.
The streets of Tokyo’s usually packed business and retail areas were reported to be quiet yesterday, as people heeded government advice and stayed indoors. Channel NewsAsia reported that few shoppers were on the streets of the Ginza district where large TV screens showed weather forecasts detailing wind directions. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government said yesterday morning that radiation levels in the capital had reached 20 times their normal level, but the city’s Governor, Shintaro Ishihara, told a news conference that radiation from the country’s failed nuclear plants “will not immediately cause health problems”, and that the public should remain calm.
Adding to the sense of nervousness, a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck the Tokyo region yesterday. The quake, which centred in Shizuoka prefecture about 120km southwest of the capital, was reported to be widely felt in Tokyo.
The death toll from Friday’s earthquake and tsunami now looks certain to pass 10,000, after Japan’s National Police Agency (NPA) said yesterday that 3,373 people had been confirmed dead and that a further 6,746 were missing. More than half a million people are now living in shelters at 2,600 sites in seven prefectures, police said.