Death toll rises as Japan tackles fallout from Hokkaido earthquake
Electricity has mostly been restored, with Toyota set to resume operations, but 2,500 people remain in evacuation centres
Tokyo — The death toll from a powerful earthquake in northern Japan last week rose to 44, with 660 injured, the government said on Monday.
Electricity supply remained short and top carmaker Toyota suspended work at most of its assembly plants.
Toyota said it would resume operations at all domestic assembly plants by Thursday. Production at the Hokkaido plant would resume later on Monday,
A Toyota spokeswoman said partial production would resume on Tuesday at some plants, including those near the company’s headquarters in Aichi Prefecture, and at subsidiary Toyota Auto Body Co operations on remaining lines would resume on Thursday.
The carmaker suspended production on Monday at 16 of its 18 domestic plants that manufacture the brand’s vehicles as it assessed the effects on its supply chain of a stoppage at Toyota Motor Hokkaido’s transmission plant, which supplies Toyota assembly plants at home and abroad.
The Hokkaido plant produces transmissions for petrol vehicles, transaxles for hybrid petrol cars, and other components, shipping components domestically as well as globally for use in popular models including the Corolla, the RAV4 SUV and Lexus NX and RX SUVs.
The predawn, 6.7-magnitude quake on Thursday temporarily paralysed the island of Hokkaido, cutting off access by air and train, and knocking out power to an island the size of Austria.
About 2,500 people remain in evacuation centres, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, after landslides buried houses and rain at the weekend loosened soil in a further threat to unstable houses.
Yoshihide Suga, the top government spokesman, said a team of about 40,000 Self-Defence Force troops, police, firefighters and others were working on clearing debris and other clean-up operations. There were no more missing residents, he said.
Power supply has been restored to nearly all customers in Hokkaido but trade minister Hiroshige Seko called on the island’s businesses and 5.3-million residents to use about 20% less energy to prevent further blackouts.
"It’s very important now for all residents, businesses, the government, and electricity suppliers to work together towards this goal of 20% energy-saving," Seko told a news conference late on Sunday.
The government has no plans for rolling blackouts on Monday and Tuesday despite the continued closure of a fossil fuel-fired power plant that supplies about half the island’s power, he said.