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Aftershocks from Japan earthquake keep fabs shut down

Posted: 28 Oct 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:matsushita electric industrial? sanyo electric? sharp?

The strong earthquake that hit central Japan over the weekend has been followed by several strong aftershocks that have prevented several Japanese electronics manufacturers from resuming operations at plants located there.

The 6.8 magnitude quake that struck Saturday was centered in the Chuetsu region in Niigata Prefecture, about 200km north-northwest of Tokyo. Alps Electric Co. Ltd, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. have plants in Chuetsu that have so far sustained minimal damage but remain shut down.

Sharp Corp., whose plant in Shirone lies 50 km from the quake's center, was reported to have sustained no damage and is operating.

Following the initial earthquake, a total of 392 aftershocks have occurred in central Japan. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), the Chuetsu district has already suffered four jolts with a magnitude of 6 and over, and ten jolts with a magnitude of 5.

The JMA warned that aftershocks with a 6 or greater magnitude are more than 40 percent likely to occur over the next week.

The threat of additional aftershocks has made it impossible for the affected Japanese plants not only to restart operation but also further analyze damage to equipment and inventory.

Niigata Sanyo Electronics, a semiconductor-manufacturing subsidiary of Sanyo, is located in Ojiya City, almost on the center of the earthquake. The plant, Sanyo's major fab for front-end processing of LSI chips, runs 24 hours a day and was occupied by 200 employees when the earthquake struck.

Immediately after the quake, production stopped and employees took refuge safely. No one was reported hurt and damage was minor, limited to items such as broken glass, according to a Sanyo spokesman.

Though Sanyo dispatched a team from its headquarters in Gumma Prefecture to check and test the production facilities of the Ojiya City fab, intermittent aftershocks have so far prevented the team from entering the fab. Thus, Sanyo cannot predict when operations would resume, according to the spokesman.

Alps's Magnetic Devices Division produces magnetic heads for audio and video recorders and hard disk drives at its Nagaoka and Koide plants, both located within 20km from the quake's center.

Alps also confirmed there was no human damage, but has also found it difficult to assess plant damage because of continuing aftershocks. The company is unable to predict when suspended operations can resume.

"We are now investigating the impact of the earthquake including inventory and supply status as well," said a spokeswoman.

Also suspending operations was Matsushita's Arai fab, located about 60 km from the quake's center. The Arai fab, which has a 0.13-micron process line, is the main production location for system-on-chip LSIs used in Matsushita's digital consumer products as well as sold to other OEMs.

The Arai fab sustained no damage either to its employees or facilities, said a Matsushita spokesman, but has not resumed operation as of Monday afternoon for fear of possible aftershocks, according to the spokesman.

Sharp's plant, which assembles optoelectronics devices, temporarily shut down after the quake to assess damage, but soon resumed operation, according to a company spokesman.

- Yoshiko Hara

EE Times

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