Tokyo Electric Power Co embarked on planned power outages in areas near Tokyo on Monday to avoid massive blackouts in its service area in the wake of Friday's powerful earthquake, but region-wide energy-saving efforts allowed the company to delay the measure which was initially set to start in the early morning.
The unprecedented move, aimed at preventing eastern Japan from falling into a serious power shortage after the crippling of some nuclear power plants, is expected to last until at least the end of April, affecting train operations, economic activity and various other aspects of people's everyday lives.
The first day of the move stirred confusion among the public, as TEPCO periodically changed the schedule of the outages and failed to issue correct information in advance to the media regarding which areas would be subject to temporary suspensions of electricity supply.
The outage even affected some evacuation centers in the coastal city of Asahi in Chiba Prefecture, where 11 people died as a result of the quake-triggered tsunami and other causes. When TEPCO announced that it would implement an outage from around 5 p.m., it did not include Chiba as an area that would be affected.
A TEPCO official apologized later that quake-hit areas were involved in the power suspension.
The first areas affected by the planned power outage were in Ibaraki, Shizuoka, Yamanashi and Chiba prefectures and the suspensions continued up to around 90 minutes. There are no other power outages planned for Monday.
The measure had been planned from 6:20 a.m. but was postponed thanks to the prospect of lower-than-expected demand, as the government urged the nation to save electricity following the crippling of TEPCO nuclear plants.
According to TEPCO, Tokyo and eight other prefectures have been divided into five groups, each of which could experience electricity outages for 3 to 6 hours on a rotating basis, according to the utility.
Earlier in the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano criticized TEPCO for changing the schedule multiple times and causing public confusion, saying information such as the areas subject to power outages was not properly conveyed even to the prime minister's office.
''I would like to instruct relevant entities to thoroughly and speedily release accurate information,'' Edano told a news conference.
The planned power outages through April are expected to affect most of the 45 million people in TEPCO's service area covering Tokyo, Chiba, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Saitama, Tochigi, Yamanashi and part of Shizuoka prefectures.
The central Tokyo area, however, will be excluded for a while as central government offices and many company headquarters are located there.
In line with the plan to suspend electricity, rail operators reduced a large part of their services from the morning, affecting many commuters.
Among affected operators, East Japan Railway Co suspended services Monday on most of its lines, except for the Joetsu and Nagano shinkansen lines and the Yamanote and Saikyo lines, as well as parts of the Keihin Tohoku, Chuo and Joban lines on which it significantly reduced traffic.
Edano earlier warned that confusion is expected as the measure had to be taken at short notice and a very large number of people will be affected.
In an appeal to the nation to reduce electricity use, Edano said, ''Maximum efforts by the nation are indispensable, such as avoiding going out unless it is necessary or urgent.''
Status of train services
Tokyo Metro Ginza Line: Transportation delayed due to 50% train reduction. Marunouchi Line: Transportation delayed due to 40% train reduction. Hibiya Line: Transportation delayed due to 10% train reduction. Direct operations to Tobu Isezaki Line and Tokyu Toyoko Line have been suspended. Tozai Line: Transportation delayed due to 30% train reduction. Direct operations to Tokyo Rapid Railway and local trains on the JR Chuo and Sobu Lines have been suspended. Chiyoda Line: Transportation delayed due to 30% train reduction. Direct operations to JR Joban Line (local trains) and Odakyu Line suspended. Yurakucho Line: Transportation delayed due to 50% train reduction. Direct operations to Tobu Tojo Line and Seibu Ikebukuro Line are suspended. Hanzomon Line: Transportation delayed due to 20% train reduction. Direct operations to Tobu Isezaki Line have been suspended. Namboku Line: Transportation delayed due to 40% train reduction. Fukutoshin Line: Transportation delayed due to 50% train reduction.
JR Lines Chuo Rapid Line: Transportation available between Tokyo - Tachikawa stations only. Keihin-Tohoku Line: Transportation available between Kamata - Akabane stations only. Joban Rapid Line: Transportation available between Ueno-Matsudo stations only. Joban Local Line: Transportation available between Ayase – Matsudo stations only. Saikyo Line: Transportation available between Osaki – Omiya Stations only.
Private Lines Odakyu Line: Transportation available on local trains between Kyodo and Shinjuku stations only. Keio Line: Transportation delayed due to 50% train reduction. All operations for the Chofu – Keio Hachioji, Takaosanguchi, and Chofu-Hashimoto area will be suspended between 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Inokashira Line: Transportation delayed due to 50% train reduction.© Compiled from news reports