Residents from homes with no power receive water and other supplies at the Ichihara local government office in Chiba Prefecture on Wednesday. Photo: KYODO
national

TEPCO struggles to restore power after typhoon

34 Comments

Japanese utility Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said on Wednesday it won't be able to restore electricity to all the homes lacking power after Typhoon Faxai until Friday or later, with media saying at least two people had died because they had no power.

The typhoon hit the capital and surrounding regions with destructive winds of up to 216 kph in the early hours of Monday, causing at least one death, damage, transport chaos and power outages.

National broadcaster NHK said two people in Chiba Prefecture died from heatstroke - one a woman in her 90s - due to a lack of power for air-conditioning as temperatures rose sharply after the typhoon.

TEPCO, Japan's biggest power provider, said plans to restore power to all homes by Wednesday had been delayed because repairs were taking longer than expected and work had been held up by thunderstorms.

"There is quite a lot more damage than we expected, so it will take until Friday or later to restore power to everyone," a TEPCO official told a news conference, adding that some 400,000 houses remained without power.

As many as 860,000 households were without power on Monday after the storm swept through, TEPCO said earlier.

Temperatures in the wake of the storm have shot up to unseasonable levels, hitting 35 C or higher in the region around Tokyo on Tuesday, forcing some people without electricity or water into evacuation centers as authorities warned people to take steps against heatstroke.

"I've been getting really worried without any air conditioning," one woman holding a baby told NHK. "We haven't been able to sleep at all due to the heat, and that's been really awful."

© Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

34 Comments
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Put power lines underground and these power cuts are much less likely to happen during typhoons.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Japan needs to use the old wisdom that went into building houses that stayed cool in summer - rather than now - living in sealed concrete air conditioned boxes.

We built our house 6 years ago and designed it so we have no need of AC and sell twice as much solar energy than we use.

Am not a professional architect etc, so if I can do it, surely professional house builders and better government regulations could ensure houses are designed for far lower carbon footprints.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Put power lines underground and these power cuts are much less likely to happen during typhoons.

That would help with typhoons, but underground cables are much more difficult to maintain and fix when an earthquake messes them up. And it doesn't even need to be a very big earthquake to cause problems.

At least that's what I was told when I was new to Japan and commented on all the lines strung overhead and pylons sitting in fields.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

We built our house 6 years ago and designed it so we have no need of AC and sell twice as much solar energy than we use.

@ifd66

I find this hard to believe unless you live next to a pond and have some constant wind blowing off the water to cool you off.

We have a super insulated home, moisture absorbing wall paper and wood construction throughout, double pane windows, a skylight in our vaulted ceiling to get a nice circulation of air bottom to top and vent the warm air, landscaping surrounding our home instead of concrete and large eves to create shade over the windows but STILL, there are so many hot stuffy days like today were I would be sweating buckets without AC or Dehumidify going. What's your home's secret?

I hope TEPCO can get the power back up fast for these folks.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

How do you die from a lack of electricity?

@Norman Goodman

If the power lines were snapped because of trees downed in the wind and on a massive scale, it would be a challenge to restring everything quickly enough to prevent heat stroke from inadequate cooling in the concrete boxes that people live in these days. Even modern apartment buildings as of 20 years ago still had single pane windows with no heat resistant glass. The apartment we lived in before building a home was torture in the summer!

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Can't suddenly replace all the current homes with more energy efficient one but that should be a goal. People with solar panels are also subsidised by all the users of electricity. Additional charge on all accounts for renewables.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

The earthquake problems are greater than typhoons so simply putting them underground might not always be the answer but yes it could be done.

In Nagano City all the cables were placed underground for the Olympics.

Water pipes, gas pipes, sewers and drains are all underground.

The main reason is the company with the contract which supplies the concrete poles for the power lines.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

If the underground water piping system can survive earthquakes, how the hell electric cables cannot?

Not mentioning these 100 mixed cables and poles are so ugly.

Since Sky Tree Tower has open, all Sumida streets open for selfies to it are air cables free: so nice!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

That's what they like to tell you because it's an easy excuse to do nothing and keep unsightly cables overhead like it's 1950. And when you ask them how emergency vehicles are supposed to get through when a major earthquake brings those concrete poles down across the roads and live wires cut through wood-framed houses, they tell you you don't understand because you're not Japanese.

Putting aside your lack of common sense, the biggest reason is maintenance costs. In a country that has as many natural disasters as Japan, a relatively small earthquake can induce soil liquification and damage underground cables. On top of that, the small size of the streets means any repairs to these underground systems will effectively cut off access to said street. The other option is burying them under buildings but how are you going to go burying these cables under preexisting buildings without incurring exorbitant tunneling costs?

Whether you like it or not, the old neighborhoods that have existed for many decades with overground infrastructure can't just be easily changed to underground infrastructure. Especially in a country like Japan. Clearly you don't understand...

Japan is the only advanced country not to bury overhead cables

Japan is also the only advanced country to experience as many earthquakes as it does. And either way, new subdivisions in large cities generally do have buried infrastructure. The issue again, comes down to not being able to update old areas so that they could handle buried infrastructure.

On top of that, concrete poles are cheap.

... And when you ask them how emergency vehicles are supposed to get through when a major earthquake brings those concrete poles down across the roads..

In the same way that they'd get through when those steel light poles topple down onto the road...

4 ( +5 / -1 )

That would help with typhoons, but underground cables are much more difficult to maintain and fix when an earthquake messes them up. And it doesn't even need to be a very big earthquake to cause problems.

It's only electricity and phones that are above ground. I don't buy the standard 'earthquake' excuse, I just think they don't want to go to the time and trouble to start putting them underground.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Will TEPCO be liable to pay compensation to the families of those who died?

The design of Japanese infrastructure is a disaster waiting to happen.

The design if Japanese houses is even worse! I rent a quite modern two story house. However, the design of the house is horrid in the summer. The second floor has a high ceiling that follows the contour of the roof. The really crazy thing is, there are no vents upstairs. The hot air just accumulates in the high ceiling and creates an upstairs oven. It was 44’ upstairs yesterday afternoon when I got gone from work. There is no insulation in the ceiling either. I can’t imagine how people are coping without electricity to run fans or aircon.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Do the hustle

so why did you rent it? The lease on our previous house came to an end end of last year. It was a 100 year old traditional house with 15 rooms. Bit cold in winter time but ok in the summer with all the windows and screens open.

I spent two years looking for a new house and visited many but none met my needs. Found a 6DK house built in 1986 two floors very large garden. AC in all rooms. 20 minute walk to the sea. Low rent. Low outgoing.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Japan is the only advanced country not to bury overhead cables.

Not true many places in America/Canada have overhead power cables. All high power cables 130,000 volt+ are on pylons.

Why doesn’t the U.S. bury its power lines?

http://theconversation.com/why-doesnt-the-u-s-bury-its-power-lines-104829

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I wouldn't recommend ANYONE to buy a house that is older than 10 years, let alone 40.

My house is 60 years old and rode out the Kumamoto quakes like a champ. A house that has lasted so long has done so for a reason.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Our previous house was 100 years old which withstood the Kobe earthquake while others in the area collapsed. It was built by a rich family who didn't spare the costs. Enormous timbers 30-50 cm wide by 20-30 cm thick.

Sure the building codes are frequently updated after every major disaster.

The house can be reformed and updated to withstand earthquakes better. Traditional houses are more expensive to update so you have to love those type of houses.

Personally I recommend buying a new house if you are young enough.

We are more happy living in a modern house after 25 years of mud and bamboo ones.

I wouldn't say the building codes are strict just better than the previous ones.

If the house next to yours has a fire building codes won't matter much.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I am around Narita area & still lots of places no power, no gas etc, not fun!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

 they tell you you don't understand because you're not Japanese.

I mustn't have been listening hard enough, coz no one ever told me I didn't understand because I wasn't Japanese.

Japan is the only advanced country not to bury overhead cables. Why? 

Coz.... if you bury them they're no longer overhead cables?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2012/07/25/why-most-cities-dont-bury-power-lines/

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@hooktrunk2

We built our house 6 years ago and designed it so we have no need of AC and sell twice as much solar energy than we use.

@ifd66 

I find this hard to believe unless you live next to a pond and have some constant wind blowing off the water to cool you off.

LOL - actually we live right on the shore of Lake Biwa :-) but in addition we shipped over a very effective insulation - effective for summer as well as winter.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@ifd66

LOL - actually we live right on the shore of Lake Biwa :-) but in addition we shipped over a very effective insulation - effective for summer as well as winter.

As I suspected, you are getting most of your cooling from the nearby water. We also have imported insulation with a very high R value(I forgot how much), but living in the middle of a concrete jungle makes it impossible to ever be able to achieve any sort of natural cooling with the lowest morning temps are 27c. We also have the luxury of having the trees from the school across the street to cool the hot asphalt in front of our home, but still the general neighborhood air temps are too great. Once it reaches 24, I can open the windows in the morning, pop the Skylight and it is amazing how that flushes out the house.

I think Japanse cities need to rethink how much tree trimming they do. Inspect and trim only rotten or dangerous part of trees instead of the whole tree. Portland, Oregon gets plenty of strong wind storms, yet has a huge urban forest of big street and yard trees.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Norman Goodman

Are the doors locked from the outside?? Okay, I can see this happening to prisoners, but not free people who have half a brain left.

And once they leave the home, where are they supposed to go? Can they go sleep in the mall? How far away is the nearest cool public place they can go to? Most of the victims are elderly and I suspect have low mobility issues as well as cognitive problems and would have trouble thinking issues like this out.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The last typhoon in Kyushu also knocked out the power for many.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@cleo underground cables are much more difficult to maintain and fix when an earthquake messes them up. 

That's what they like to tell you because it's an easy excuse to do nothing and keep unsightly cables overhead like it's 1950. And when you ask them how emergency vehicles are supposed to get through when a major earthquake brings those concrete poles down across the roads and live wires cut through wood-framed houses, they tell you you don't understand because you're not Japanese.

Japan is the only advanced country not to bury overhead cables. Why? Because the poles are made of concrete, I guess. Can't get enough of that stuff.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

From 2014 why power cables are on poles in Tokyo

https://japantoday.com/category/features/lifestyle/why-does-japan-have-so-many-overhead-power-lines

1 ( +1 / -0 )

TEPCO again?! Remember the clear lack of checks/ disaster plan after Fukushima? And the same in Chiba after the typhoon..??

0 ( +3 / -3 )

The last typhoon in Kyushu also knocked out the power for many.

Don't forget the gasoutage in Osaka last year.

I spent two years looking for a new house and visited many but none met my needs. Found a 6DK house built in 1986 two floors very large garden. AC in all rooms. 20 minute walk to the sea. Low rent. Low outgoing.

1986 eh? Good luck with the earthquakes. I wouldn't recommend ANYONE to buy a house that is older than 10 years, let alone 40. I hope you got good insurance.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

This is just the tip of the melting iceberg. TEPCO does not have the People to fix downed power lines? It is not an easy job with the heights of some power lines, but it has to be done. Climate change is a real kicker and as I hear expected to get much worse. The Antarctic has a huge glacier whose ice shelf is melting a collapse could raise the sea level by 10 feet. The Artic including Greenlands' ice is melting and this could raise sea levels. TEPCO's and other coastal NPPs could be under20 feet of water in a few years.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

zichi - Do the hustle! - so why did you rent it?

I spent two years looking for a new house and visited many but none met my needs

You answered your own question there. I needed somewhere to live and I wasn’t renting a 50 year old shanty.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

heat stroke from inadequate cooling in the concrete boxes that people live in these days.

Are the doors locked from the outside?? Okay, I can see this happening to prisoners, but not free people who have half a brain left.

That said my student told me one man who died was dependent on an electric machine to remove phlegm from his throat because he no longer had the body function to do that. He suffocated. I am shocked he did not have a simple back up battery available at home centers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Learn from Okinawa how to build to survive Typhoons. Miyako Island just got hit with a (CAT 4 equivalent) super typhoon. Yes they had some damage and power was out for a short time. But, it's not a big deal and all will be back to normal in two to three days. Okinawan's don't have anywhere to evacuate to so they have to be self-sufficient. People around the world could learn a lot about how to survive typhoons from Okinawa. Hope they get the damage in Japan repaired quickly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Day 4 and still no power for about 450,000 households. 21,000 households are without water.

TEPCO said it is unclear when the two transmission towers that collapsed in Kimitsu due to the typhoon will be repaired.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No Electricity? No Gas? Then you should watch Japanese movie 'Survival Family' and it will give you some lesson about it

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

My house is 60 years old and rode out the Kumamoto quakes like a champ. A house that has lasted so long has done so for a reason.

Sorry, nothing to brag about. You are just extremely lucky. The build-code nowadays has to abide strict regulations to withstand earthquakes, rules that are more strict than 40 or 60 years ago. Again, not 100% guarantee but we cant with anything. Anyway glad for you, I sincerely hope it remains standing another 100 years. :)

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

About 400,000 households remain without power in Chiba prefecture, TEPCO said.

I wonder if any are in the Ichihara area. There's a load of housing for TEPCO staff somewhere near Ichihara; after the Tohoku earthquake in 2011 there were rolling blackouts in Chiba but the TEPCO housing area was spared, apparently. By all accounts the locals who were forced to go without electricity weren't best pleased.....

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

How do you die from a lack of electricity? Life support is generally run in facilities with back-up generators so just a black out should not cause death.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

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