• Earthquake in Japan: Aftershocks expected as factories halt production

    19 June 2018

    A powerful earthquake was detected in the early hours of June 18 in the Kansai Region near Osaka, a major industrial center, causing casualties and halting production lines at several large car and electronics manufacturers across the city. Measured as magnitude 6.1 by the Japan Meteorological Agency, the tremor killed at least 3 people and injured more than 300 others. No major infrastructural damages have been reported, but an unspecified number of buildings have been damaged, including in the cities of Osaka, Takatsuki, Hirakata, Ibaraki, Itami, and Nara.

    In the immediate aftermath, more than 170,000 properties in Osaka and Hyogo prefecture were temporarily without power and gas utility supply has been disrupted to as many as 110,000 customers in Ibaraki and Takatsuki. Initial reports suggested that it will take up to ten days for full restoration.

    Transport was disrupted and trains stopped amid power outages during the morning commute as the earthquake struck at 08:00 local time at a depth of about 13 kilometers. Both train and subway services in and around Osaka, including the bullet train to Tokyo, were suspended while safety checks were made. According to airline information, at least 80 flights have been cancelled, mainly at Osaka International Airport (ITM). As of this writing, other transport hubs such as Kobe Airport and Kansai International Airport as well as the seaports of Osaka and Kobe were operating normally. No backlogs of cargo are anticipated and no cargo has been diverted to other airports in Nagoya (NGO) or Tokyo (TYO/NRT) due to the quake.

    Osaka is the headquarters of large Japanese corporations, including Panasonic, Sharp, Nintendo and Takeda Pharmaceutical, while major car makers have manufacturing footprint across the region. Among them, Toyota Motor Corp, Honda Motor Co and Mitsubishi have temporarily suspended production to conduct damage assessments at their sites. Other companies which have confirmed temporary production stoppages at sites in or nearby Osaka include: Panasonic (electronics), Sharp Corp (electronics), Shiseido Co. (consumer goods), Nintendo (electronics), Kenyence Corp (electronics), JXTG Energy (petrochemicals), Kubota Corp (machinery) and Asahi Group (beer). Smaller manufacturing operations in electronics, automotive and healthcare may also be affected in the area but have not come forward to release a public statement. Customers with an interest in these supply chains should thus continue to monitor Osaka-based suppliers in the coming days as impact assessments may take longer for smaller sub-tier suppliers.

    The Japanese Meteorological Agency has said that increased seismic activity should be expected to continue in the Kansai Region over the next week. Strong aftershocks could be felt over the next two to three days if the fault line, a fracture in the ground that occurs when tectonic plates move, has shifted, since the initial quake was relatively shallow. In 2016, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck two days before a 7.3 magnitude tremor which killed 32 people and injured 900 others in southern Kumamoto on the island of Kyushu. The powerful quake caused widespread infrastructure damage to the region’s transport network, including a closed airport, a collapsed tunnel and a cut-off national highway.

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