Joban Expressway’s entire route back in service, but quake impact still visible in many areas

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Exposed rebar is seen at the base of an earthquake-damaged viaduct pier of the Tohoku Shinkansen line in Kunimi, Fukushima Prefecture, on Friday.

A section of the Joban Expressway reopened at noon on Friday, bringing the entire route back into service after it had been closed to traffic following Wednesday’s powerful earthquake that hit Japan’s northeast coast.

Impacts of the earthquake, however, are still being observed in many areas.

Services of the Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train, which was derailed by the quake in Miyagi Prefecture, are expected to remain suspended on parts of the line for an extended period.

Bus companies have increased their long-distance express bus services to meet increased passenger demand caused by the suspension of the line. At Sendai Airport, airlines have been operating extra flights to Haneda Airport as well.

More than 47,000 households in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures continued to be without running water, forcing residents to stand in line for water supplies in the snow and rain.

A long line of businesspeople formed at the express bus terminal at the east exit of JR Sendai Station on the day following the quake.

JR Bus Tohoku Co. has increased its number of daytime runs between Sendai Station and Tokyo by four to five times the usual number. All the seats were filled on Friday, and they were almost fully booked for Saturday services.

A 52-year-old company employee from Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, who was on a business trip to Sendai when the quake struck, said he had found himself with no choice but to stay an extra night.

“I never imagined that I would have no way to get home,” he said while standing in line waiting for a bus.

Local governments have begun accepting applications for a certificate showing that a victim’s residence has been damaged or destroyed in a quake, which is required for public assistance.

In Kunimi, Fukushima Prefecture, where the quake reached upper 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale, residents lined up at the town hall before the office opened at 9 a.m., taking their places on a daylong waiting list.

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) has announced it plans to begin removing the derailed cars of the 17-car Yamabiko 223 bullet train on the Tohoku Shinkansen line within the next few days.

The firm also announced damage to the line that it has confirmed so far. It includes broken poles at 24 locations, damaged overpasses and other structures at 20 locations, warped rails at 10 locations, broken overhead wires at two locations and damage to power transmission facilities at two locations.

It is expected to take several more days for the company to get an overall picture of the damage.

The quake’s death toll totaled three in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, and 216 people were injured in 12 prefectures, including those two.