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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Companies Halted in Wake of Quake

TOKYO -- The mammoth earthquake that ravaged northern Japan this week did more than take lives and trigger radioactive leaks. It nailed some of the most important industries under-girding growth in the world's second-biggest economy.

Details of the economic fallout were still emerging days after Monday's 6.8-magnitude earthquake shook the Sea of Japan coast. But early repercussions stretched from Japan's top automakers to the country's biggest power company.

As of Thursday, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, Mazda and Fuji Heavy Industries, the maker of Subaru vehicles, halted production at some factories because a key parts supplier, Riken, was damaged by the temblor.

The Nikkei business newspaper reported that about 70 percent of Japan's domestic auto production had been interrupted.

Meanwhile, fears of an electricity shortage in the nation's capital swelled after the world's biggest nuclear power plant was shut down indefinitely because of safety concerns. Tokyo Electric Power, Japan's largest utility, was scrambling to ramp up conventional power output after closing the quake-damaged Kashiwazaka-Karima facility in Niigata prefecture, in north-central Japan.

"We will work to the utmost to avoid damage to the economy," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said Thursday. "For the factories that suspended operations, the related ministries are striving hard for their early resumption."

Monday's quake, which killed 10 people and caused a slew of problems at TEPCO's nuclear plant, including a fire and leaks of radioactive material into the ocean, has wreaked havoc companies with factories in the region and created a logistics nightmare with damaged roads.

Autos and electric power are key to Japan's export-oriented economy, which is staging a healthy recovery from more than a decade of doldrums. While any lasting impact on overall growth will likely be limited, even a small blip would be unwelcome.

"Naturally the impact will be negative, but the government will likely increase spending in public works to repair bridges and roads so there should be some offsetting effects," said Masaaki Kanno, chief economist at JPMorgan in Tokyo.

The auto companies' troubles stemmed largely from damage at a factory run by Riken, a supplier of key transmission and engine parts.

Toyota Motor, Nissan Motor, Mitsubishi Motors and Fuji Heavy Industries announced late Wednesday that they would temporarily halt some of their lines for lack of components as Riken repairs its facilities. Honda Motor, Mazda Motor and truck-makers Mitsubishi Fuso and Hino joined their ranks on Thursday.

"It's usually deafening with all the equipment running. But we've had to shut everything down," Riken spokesman Takashi Fujii said while giving a tour of the damaged plant to reporters. "The equipment is very sensitive and it needs to be on a level surface."

Of wider concern was an impending electricity crunch. Tokyo-based TEPCO warned Wednesday that the closure of its seven-reactor plant could trigger a power shortage for the busy capital in the summer months.