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    Quake brings modern Tokyo to a standstill

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    sicran
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    Quake brings modern Tokyo to a standstill

    Post by sicran on 11/3/2011, 7:35 am




    TOKYO – Japan's huge earthquake brought super-modern Tokyo to a
    standstill Friday, paralyzing trains that normally run like clockwork
    and stranding hordes of commuters carrying mobile phones rendered
    largely useless by widespread outages.

    The magnitude-8.9 quake off Japan's northeastern
    coast shook buildings in the capital, left millions of homes across
    Japan without electricity, shut down the mobile phone network and
    severely disrupted landline telephone service. It brought Tokyo's train
    system to a halt, choking a daily commuter flow of more than 10 million
    people.
    "This is the kind of earthquake that hits once every 100 years," said restaurant worker Akira Tanaka, 54.
    He gave up waiting for trains to resume and decided —
    for his first time ever — to set off on foot for his home 12 miles (20
    kilometers) north of the capital. "I've been walking an hour and 10
    minutes, still have about three hours to go," he said.
    Tokyo prides itself on being an orderly,
    technologically savvy, even futuristic city. Residents usually can rely
    on a huge, criss-crossing network of train and subway lines, but
    authorities were forced to scan the entire web for quake damage and
    canceled nearly all train service for the day.
    Tens of thousands of people milled at train stations and hunkered down at 24-hour cafes and hotels.
    Mobile phone lines were crammed, preventing nearly
    all calls and text messages. Calls to northeastern Japan, where a
    23-foot (7-meter) tsunami washed ashore after the quake, generally
    failed to go through, with a recording saying the area's lines were
    busy.
    Unable to rely on mobile phones, lines of people formed at Tokyo's normally vacant public phone booths dotting the city.
    Osamu Akiya, 46, was working in Tokyo at his office
    in a trading company when the quake hit. It sent bookshelves and
    computers crashing to the floor, and cracks appeared in the walls.
    "I've been through many earthquakes, but I've never felt anything like this," he said.
    Japan's top telecommunications company Nippon
    Telegraph and Telephone Corp. set up an emergency phone line and a
    special Internet site for people to leave messages for family and
    friends.
    Up to 90 percent of calls were being restricted to
    prevent telecom equipment from being overloaded, NTT spokeswoman Mai
    Kariya said. The company was checking on damage to towers and cables,
    and details were not immediately available.
    Tokyo commuter trains and subways, as well as the
    superfast bullet trains, all shut down, according to East Japan Railway
    Co. A handful of subway lines resumed service, but only after six hours.
    Normally when Tokyo trains suffer rare problems, they
    are running again within an hour. But the railway company announced
    that nearly all service would not resume for the rest of the day,
    sending crowds that were milling at train stations pouring into the
    streets.
    The Tokyo suburb of Yokohama offered the community's
    main concert hall as an emergency place to stay overnight, and planned
    to offer blankets and other amenities, Yokohama Arena official Hideharu
    Terada said.
    "There has never been a big earthquake like this,
    when all the railways stopped and so this is a first for us," Terada
    said. "People are trickling in. They are all calm."
    In downtown Tokyo, Tomoko Suzuki and her elderly
    mother stood at a crowded corner, unable to get to their 29th-floor
    condominium because the elevator wasn't working. They unsuccessfully
    tried to hail a taxi to a relative's house and couldn't find a hotel
    room.
    "We are so cold," said Suzuki. "We really don't know what to do."


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