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Hokkaido struggles to save electricity as power plants remain shuttered after quake

A notice put out at a Sapporo Municipal Subway station in the city's Chuo Ward says subway services are being reduced due to a power shortage, on Sept. 10, 2018. (Mainichi)

SAPPORO -- Companies and residents of Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido have begun efforts to reduce 20 percent of their power consumption amid a continuing electricity shortage, as a local thermal power plant remains down after a strong earthquake on Sept. 6.

According to Hokkaido Electric Power Co., the amount of electricity saved on Sept. 10 was around 15 percent, and the supply-demand balance continued to be precarious during the day. The highest demand reduction achieved during the day was 16 percent at 2 p.m., still lagging behind the 20 percent goal. The current power generation capacity on the island is 3.53 million kilowatts, far below the pre-quake peak demand of 3.83 million kilowatts.

The largest power plant in Hokkaido, Tomato-Atsuma Thermal Power Plant, will take more than a week to resume operations since its shutdown on Sept. 6. Hokkaido Electric Power Co. President Akihiko Mayumi said the company first has to complete a probe into the current status of the plant before determining its recovery timeline. The utility is considering carrying out rolling blackouts depending on the demand-and-supply situation.

To meet the power consumption cap, railway companies suspended some of their services, while commercial facilities turned off a portion of their lights and closed some of their elevators.

The number of fatalities from the earthquake reached 41 by the end of Sept. 10, according to the Hokkaido Prefectural Government. Tatsuyuki Yamamoto, 77, was confirmed on Sept. 10 as the last fatality in the southern Hokkaido town of Atsuma, where a total of 36 were killed by landslides from the earthquake. Five other people were reported dead in four other municipalities.

The prefectural authorities say three other deaths in the prefectural capital of Sapporo could potentially be linked to the magnitude 6.7 temblor measuring a full 7 on the Japanese 7-point seismic intensity scale centered in the southern part of Hokkaido.

As many as 1,989 people remained in evacuation centers in the towns of Atsuma and Mukawa and Sapporo as of 9 p.m. on Sept. 10. Power is still out at 312 households in Atsuma and the town of Abira in the southern part of prefecture.

(Japanese original by Chie Yamashita, Hokkaido News Department, and Shunsuke Ichimiya, Aomori Bureau)

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