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Earthquake damage, colder weather has millions facing power blackouts in Japan

Earthquake damage, colder weather has millions facing power blackouts in Japan
Damage is seen last Thursday from a powerful earthquake that rattled parts of Japan. The quake disrupted power plants and, combined with colder weather, the result has parts of the country facing electricity blackouts this week. Photo by Jiji Press via EPA-EFE

March 22 (UPI) -- Parts of Japan, including Tokyo, faced a threat of electricity blackouts on Tuesday stemming from a strong earthquake last week and a dramatic spike in usage because of a new blast of cold weather.

The Tokyo Power Company Holdings, or Tepco, and Japan's industry ministry said between 2 and 3 million homes could be affected by a power outage because some plants have been offline since the 7.3-magnitude quake on March 16 in the Tohoku region of northeastern Japan.

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The interior ministry and utility companies have asked residents and businesses to curb energy until disrupted thermal power plants can resume operating.

The quake shook Japan, killed at least four people and injured more than 100. It also promoted frightening memories of the 2011 earthquake in the same region that damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant and created a 23-foot tsunami that eventually killed 18,000 people. That quake had a magnitude of 9.1.

"In addition to the suspension of thermal power plants due to the quake, significant demand increase caused by bad weather are the factors for the strained power supply and demand situation this time," industry minister Koichi Hagiuda said, according to Japan Today.

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Tepco called on nine prefectures to conserve energy all day Tuesday, including Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Yamanashi and eastern Shizuoka.

Tokyo and other parts of Japan have experienced colder temperatures lately that are typically normal for the middle of winter. Government officials said they hoped for a power conservation rate of about 10%.

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