National

Hokkaido industries still struggling following quake-triggered blackout

Jiij

Key industries in Hokkaido are still struggling with secondary damage from the massive blackout triggered by the powerful earthquake a month ago.

The power outage even forced factories far away from the seismic center of the 6.7 magnitude earthquake to suspend operations.

Food and beverage factories and retailers had to dispose of products as refrigerators stopped working, suffering larger damage from the secondary effects than the direct impact of the earthquake.

Dairy and livestock farmers have yet to see production return to predisaster levels due to severe aftereffects of the blackout.

“It will take time to restore production to levels before the disaster,” an official of the Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives in Hokkaido said.

According to the federation, the amount of raw milk it collected from group farmers in early September fell 16 percent from a year earlier. Although raw milk production started recovering in mid-September, many farmers are still suffering from the impact of the blackout, which made them unable to use milk pumps and caused their cows to develop mastitis.

Furthermore, farmers had no choice but to dispose of produced raw milk because they were unable to cool it for storage.

The Hokkaido Prefectural Government estimated damage from the earthquake on its dairy and livestock industry at some ¥2.4 billion as of Friday.

A Toyota Motor Corp. subsidiary was forced to suspend transmission production at a plant in Tomakomai due to the power outage. The Toyota group halted production at 16 domestic vehicle assembly plants at one point to check how the transmission supply suspension would affect operations.

Seiko Epson Corp. has yet to resume full operations at its liquid crystal display plant in Chitose. The company could not confirm damage to its production equipment promptly as it did not have sufficient electricity for full inspection work.

The Hokkaido government projects that secondary damage totaled about ¥13.6 billion, exceeding some ¥12 billion from the direct damage.

“Consumer sentiment has yet to recover,” an official at a major department store in Sapporo said.

The number of hotel reservations canceled has reached some 1,149,000 according to the prefectural government.

The central government plans to provide subsidies to cover up to 70 percent of the travel costs for tourists to the prefecture to support a revival of the local economy.