• Kyodo, Bloomberg

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Japan's northeastern Tohoku region boosted bus and flight services Monday as railway connections remained disrupted following a magnitude 7.3 earthquake Saturday that injured more than 150 people, cutting power and water in some areas.

Many homes in the hardest-hit prefectures of Miyagi and Fukushima were still without water Monday and businesses already battered by the novel coronavirus pandemic were struggling to resume operations.

Around 950,000 households were left without electricity at one point, but power had been restored by Sunday afternoon.

The powerful quake occurred just one month before the 10-year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that led to a meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and left about 19,000 people dead or missing. The latest tremor was an aftershock of the 2011 quake, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

No deaths were attributed to the temblor that struck Saturday at 11:07 p.m., registering upper 6 on Japan's seven-level seismic intensity scale in parts of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures.

Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. said they would increase flights between the Tohoku region and Tokyo's Haneda Airport as well as Itami Airport in the Osaka area. They will also use larger airplanes for some flights.

Ticket gates for the Tohoku Shinkansen at Fukushima Station remain closed Monday with bullet train services suspended following Saturday's powerful earthquake. | KYODO
Ticket gates for the Tohoku Shinkansen at Fukushima Station remain closed Monday with bullet train services suspended following Saturday’s powerful earthquake. | KYODO

JR Bus Tohoku Co. based in Sendai, which was heavily jolted by the earthquake late Saturday, will add more than 20 services connecting the Tokyo metropolitan area with Fukushima and Sendai stations during the daytime.

"We may discuss a further increase of bus services if the situation requires," said an official at the company's Morioka branch in Iwate Prefecture. JR Bus Tohoku has been flooded with reservations and inquiries.

The powerful quake has damaged electric poles and bridges on the Tohoku Shinkansen. Bullet train operations have been halted between Nasushiobara and Morioka stations in Tochigi and Iwate prefectures, respectively, since Sunday.

East Japan Railway Co. said it had partially suspend more bullet train services Monday, and that it would take about 10 days before the services are fully restored.

The Meteorological Agency warned that heavy rain was forecast from Monday evening in Fukushima Prefecture, calling on local authorities in the prefecture to be aware of the heightened risk of landslides following the seismic activity.

People continue to clean up the mess left by the quake, and those in areas affected by water stoppages have been lining up at water supply points.

People try to board a JR Bus Tohoku Co. expressway bus in Sendai on Monday, as train services remained suspended. | KYODO
People try to board a JR Bus Tohoku Co. expressway bus in Sendai on Monday, as train services remained suspended. | KYODO

About 900 homes in the town of Yamamoto in Miyagi Prefecture remained without water. The Ground Self-Defense Force has started providing water in the neighboring Fukushima Prefecture town of Shinchi, where all households were left without water.

The quake also affected businesses in Fukushima preparing to resume operations with the lifting Sunday of a local government request to shorten business hours, which had been aimed at containing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"I had just received a call from a regular customer awaiting our reopening," said Yosuke Mashiko, 37, who had been about to end the temporary closure of his bar in Koriyama from Monday evening. "I know all of this is no one's fault, but I'm overwhelmed."

Kirin Holdings Co. said it stopped operations at a beer production plant in Sendai due to earthquake damage to its facility and inventories, and did not expect to resume until Wednesday at the earliest.

Asahi Breweries Ltd. has similarly halted its beer plant in the city of Motomiya in Fukushima Prefecture.

The powerful earthquake injured 153 people, according to the internal affairs ministry. The temblor also caused damage to school buildings in Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures, prompting a total of 71 schools to close on Monday.

People visit a water supply station in the town of Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture, on Monday, as water supplies remained suspended in parts of Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. | KYODO
People visit a water supply station in the town of Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture, on Monday, as water supplies remained suspended in parts of Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. | KYODO

A total of 311 instances of damage to school buildings in the two prefectures — 119 in Miyagi and 192 in Fukushima — such as cracks in walls and floors, shattered windows and burst water pipes, had been discovered, according to the education ministry.

Water in a spent nuclear fuel pool spilled over at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, which suffered meltdowns after the March 11, 2011, disaster, but there was no leak, according to operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

Other nuclear utilities reported there were no irregularities.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said at a meeting of Cabinet members on Sunday that the government had received reports of many injuries but no deaths, and urged people to stay alert.

"We want people to act quickly by not letting their guard down and paying close attention to information provided by local authorities," Suga said, noting there could be further quakes with an intensity of upper 6 over the next seven days or so.

Since late Saturday, a series of aftershocks registering up to 4 on the intensity scale have been observed.

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