Photographer: Yuriko Nakao/Bloomberg

Power Fully Restored After Outage Across Wide Area of Tokyo

  • As many as 580,000 homes lose power briefly across city
  • Subway operations disrupted, Haneda flights unaffected

Power has been fully restored to slightly more than half a million homes across Tokyo that briefly suffered outages after a fire broke out at a Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. facility in the neighboring prefecture of Saitama.

The disruption affected government offices and brought some trains in the capital to a temporary halt. As many as 580,000 homes were hit, a Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry spokeswoman said. The utility, which said that power was fully returned to those affected by 4:25 p.m. Tokyo time, confirmed the ministry’s numbers at a news conference.

Television footage showed plumes of dense black smoke billowing from a facility in the city of Niiza in Saitama prefecture. The fire caused the shutdown of two Tokyo Electric substations in Tokyo, Tokyo Electric spokeswoman Chisato Aoki said by phone.

Arson has been ruled out, according to another Tokyo Electric spokesman. The utility, also known as Tepco, said it is probing the cause of the fire. When asked about the possibility of a link to terrorism, top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the government was investigating.

The outage forced some government buildings in central Tokyo to switch to backup power, while operations on several subway lines were disrupted, according to NHK. Flights continued as scheduled at Haneda Airport.

Local television showed long lines of commuters waiting at the Ikebukuro train station in northern Tokyo, one of largest transit centers in the metropolis. NHK showed several car accidents and cited police reports saying that as many as 200 traffic lights had temporarily gone out throughout the capital.

By 6:40 p.m., Tepco said the fire at its underground facility in Niiza had been suppressed.

The incident is another blow to the utility that is struggling to put the Fukushima nuclear disaster behind it.

Tepco said last week that the paying for decommissioning of the crippled plant put it at risk of insolvency. The March 2011 nuclear accident and its fallout will ultimately cost more than 11 trillion yen ($106 billion), according to a study by academics including Kenichi Oshima, a professor of economics at Ritsumeikan University. Tepco has estimated that decommissioning alone will cost about 2 trillion yen.

— With assistance by Yuji Nakamura, Tsuyoshi Inajima, and Emi Urabe

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