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Natural disasters

Tokyo-area power outage drags on for 5th day

Minister says district near capital may be without electricity for another week

A telegraph pole shattered by typhoon is seen in Minamiboso city, Chiba Prefecture, on September 13. (Photo by Taro Yokosawa)

CHIBA (Kyodo) -- Slow progress by utilities in fixing a power outage caused by Typhoon Faxai has left many residents of a district neighboring Tokyo debilitated and frustrated, as Friday brought a fifth day without electricity.

Industry minister Isshu Sugawara said parts of Chiba Prefecture may be affected by power cuts for another week or longer, after the typhoon ripped through the Tokyo metropolitan area on Monday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed all Cabinet members to make the utmost effort in restoring essential utilities.

Some 195,000 households were without power as of 11 a.m., down from the peak of 935,000, and 280,000 late Thursday, according to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

The number of homes without water stood at around 27,000 in the morning, according to the Chiba prefectural government, with some areas unable to pump up underground supplies due to the lack of electricity.

And in some areas where power and water had been restored, the latter supply was lost again as people simultaneously turned on the taps, causing an imbalance of supply and demand and prompting the prefecture to call for water saving.

In the town of Tako, where some 4,000 households are without running water, Self-Defense Forces supplied water to residents.

In the town of Kyonan, the typhoon smashed roof tiles and windows, and stripped some homes of their entire roof. As most parts of the town remained without electricity, residents depended on candles for their evening light.

"The power outage is continuing and my home is a mess. I've never experienced something like this, and it is taxing," said Kazuko Yamanoi, 55. On Thursday, she had a cup noodle and rice ball for dinner, and had to put outside a candle she was using for lighting.

The inside of her home had become too hot as temperatures soared earlier in the week, and as she was unable to use an air conditioner due to a lack of electricity.

"I want to take a warm bath and get a deep sleep soon," she said.

TEPCO, which services the area, initially sought to restore power to everyone by Wednesday, but now has no specific timeframe for a full resumption after being criticized for giving what turned out to be an inaccurate prediction.

Chiba Mayor Toshihito Kumagai criticized the utility on Thursday, saying, "Announcing an optimistic outlook does not help those affected."

"We want (TEPCO) to have the mind of assuming the worst situation as much as possible and share the information so all of those involved can prepare for it," he said.

At a press conference on Thursday, Kazuyuki Shiokawa of TEPCO subsidiary TEPCO Power Grid Inc. said the company regrets taking an optimistic view, explaining it had failed to grasp the extent of damage to the power grid in mountainous areas, as felled trees hindered its effort.

The industry minister said the strength of transmission towers and power poles must be reviewed, after they were toppled.

Masakazu Kato, a professor at Tokyo Denki University specializing in electrical systems engineering, said resumption in just a few days was impossible, given the recovery from a similarly powerful typhoon in western Japan last year took a long time.

"As the (Tokyo) metropolitan area rarely experiences damage from typhoons, the lack of experience likely made the company assume too optimistically," he said.

Faxai made landfall near the city of Chiba early Monday, becoming one of the strongest recorded typhoons to hit the Kanto region of eastern Japan.

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