Photo/IllutrationAn electricity pylon is toppled in Kimitsu, Chiba Prefecture, on Sept 9 after Typhoon No. 15 hit the area. (The Asahi Shimbun)

The widespread, continued power failure in Chiba Prefecture and surrounding areas is starting to threaten the lives of many residents. The government needs to make all-out efforts to quickly provide relief to the affected areas.

The power outage triggered by Typhoon No. 15 on Sept. 9 is taking a heavy toll on the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the prefecture east of Tokyo.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. initially said it aimed to restore power to the affected areas by the end of Sept. 11. But the target date has been pushed back to Sept. 13 or later.

The blackout amid the severe lingering summer heat is causing serious inconveniences and hardships for many people. Deaths apparently caused by heatstroke have been reported.

The power failure has also cut off water supply to tens of thousands of households. TEPCO must take every possible action to restore the electricity supply as quickly as possible.

The number of households without electricity surpassed 900,000 at one point, making the power failure one of the worst in terms of both scale and duration in TEPCO’s history.

As of 8 p.m. on Sept. 12, 290,000 households were still without power.

TEPCO says efforts to fix the power supply system have been hampered by unstable weather following the typhoon, which has caused frequent suspensions in work.

Efforts have also been hobbled by the many fallen trees in mountainous areas in the Boso Peninsula, according to the utility.

But TEPCO, operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, was clearly ill-prepared to deal with the consequences of such a large typhoon due apparently to unwarranted optimism.

The company needs to start providing detailed and accurate information about the situation.

After all electricity is restored, TEPCO should carry out a rigorous study to identify the causes of the power outage and the reasons for the serious delays in the restoration process.

Its findings should help itself and other utilities establish better systems to prevent large-scale power failures and ensure swift restoration in cases of blackouts.

Two transmission towers fell down, cutting the power supply to 100,000 households. It is possible that these pylons were hit by stronger-than-expected winds.

TEPCO needs to carefully inspect the fallen towers to assess the strength of the winds and, if necessary, revise its wind-resistance assumptions concerning transmission towers.

The utility, which is struggling to deal with the financial consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and facing sluggish demand growth, has been reining in investment in power transmission and distribution facilities.

The company should also check whether it has taken sufficient measures for power security, such as replacing or reinforcing old utility poles.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to “do his utmost” to restore power to the stricken areas. Local governments in the areas are calling for such relief measures as the continuous deployment of power-generating cars and water supply support.

The ministries and agencies concerned should develop and implement plans to provide relief to the areas as soon as possible.

Especially worrisome are the possible health effects on elderly, sick and other people vulnerable to disasters. Hospitals are operating with emergency power generators, but they need constant refueling.

Flush toilets have become dysfunctional at some nursing care facilities, forcing workers to do the job by hand.

The top priority should be to comprehend and meet the needs of such facilities.

It will take some time after the end of the blackout for life to return to normal in the affected areas.

Many roofs have been seriously damaged by strong winds, making it necessary to supply a large number of blue plastic sheets to cover the damage.

Other local governments and businesses should do what they can to help people in Chiba Prefecture deal with the ordeal.

Last year, a powerful earthquake caused a region-wide blackout in Hokkaido, while Typhoon No. 21 cut off power to 2.2 million households in the Kansai region.

The most plausible long-term answer to the risk is to replace overhead power lines with underground cables.

Although that measure will be expensive, the effects of huge power outages and the costs of restoration work show that both the government and electric utilities should now start promoting subterranean systems.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 13