Japan scrambles to cover railway artery severed by powerful quake

©Kyodo News

Airlines and bus operators decided Monday to increase services as the high-speed railway connection between the capital region and northeastern Japan remained disrupted in the wake of a powerful earthquake that struck the country two days ago.

Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. said they will increase the number of flights between the Tohoku region and Tokyo's Haneda airport and Itami airport in the Osaka area. They will also use larger airplanes for some flights.

JR Bus Tohoku Co. based in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, which was heavily jolted by the earthquake late Saturday, will add more than 20 services connecting the Tokyo metropolitan area with Fukushima and Sendai stations during the daytime.

"We may discuss a further increase of bus services if the situation requires," said an official at the company's Morioka branch in Iwate Prefecture. JR Bus Tohoku has been flooded with reservations and inquiries.

The magnitude 7.3 temblor, registering upper 6 on Japan's seismic intensity scale of 7 in parts of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures, damaged electric poles and bridges on the Tohoku shinkansen line. Bullet train operations have been halted between Nasushiobara and Morioka stations in Tochigi and Iwate prefectures, respectively, since Sunday.

East Japan Railway Co. said it will in addition partially suspend bullet train services Monday between Morioka and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto, Hokkaido, and run only one or two trains per hour between Tokyo and Nasushiobara stations.

The operator is also reducing train services Monday between Akita and Morioka stations of the Akita shinkansen as well as between Fukushima and Shinjo stations of the Yamagata shinkansen.

The weather agency warned that heavy rain is forecast from Monday evening in Fukushima Prefecture, calling on local authorities in the prefecture to be aware of potential landslides.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said heavy snow could be observed along the coast of Sea of Japan from Tuesday to Thursday.

The powerful earthquake injured 153 people, according to the internal affairs ministry. The temblor also caused damage to school buildings in Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures, prompting a total of 71 schools to close on Monday.

A total of 311 cases of damage to school buildings in the two prefectures -- 119 in Miyagi and 192 in Fukushima -- such as cracks in walls and floors, shattered windows, and burst water pipes, have been discovered, according to the education ministry.

Although no deaths were attributed to the temblor that struck at 11:07 p.m. Saturday, it has caused power and water outages in a wide area. It came just weeks before the 10th anniversary of a magnitude-9.0 quake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan in March 2011, leaving more than 15,000 people dead and triggering a nuclear crisis.