Power and transport trouble Japanese IT makers after quake

Japan's major electronics companies took stock of their problems on Monday, as the country struggles to come to terms with the scale of devastation following Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami.

Several of Japan's largest electronics manufacturers suspended production at some plants on Monday.

The companies are having to deal with several problems at once. Some plants were damaged by the earthquake. Other plants are offline because of a loss of power, while others can operate but are unable to get parts because supply chains have been disrupted.

Sony said seven of its plants were not in operation on Monday. Several hundred Sony staff slept in one factory over the weekend because they faced problems getting home or because their homes were badly damaged.

NEC factories in Iwate and Fukushima prefectures are offline because of electricity and water supply problems and Hitachi has halted work at six factories. Fujitsu shut down 10 plants on Monday, while Canon has suspended work at eight and Nikon at four. Factories in the region belonging to other electronics companies and their suppliers are also offline.

Many of the companies are unable to say when production will restart.

Work is also being affected outside of the quake-hit region. Problems at several nuclear power stations have cut power generation capacity by 27 percent, and sparked fears that supply will not be able to keep up with demand.

Late on Sunday, the government asked major companies to reduce electricity consumption and some responded by instructing employees to stay at home. Other energy-saving measures include the switching off of large neon signs and giant TVs that blast advertisements over major intersections.

Planned blackouts began late Monday in two regions around the capital as part of a plan to keep the lights on in Tokyo. The blackouts affect all customers in those regions, so factories and offices are also being forced to suspend work.

There are no plans to ration power in central Tokyo.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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