By on March 11, 2011

An 8.9 earthquake, the world’s sixth largest, followed by a massive tsunami, rocked the north of Japan. The center is close to Sendai, where Toyota recently opened a new plant. Sendai took the brunt of the quake. Telephone service all over Japan is severely degraded. Via a very spotty cellphone line, I reached Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco, who was standing outside his office building, like most people in Tokyo.

Toyota had no information from or communication with their plant in Ohira near Sendai, Miyagi prefecture, Nolasco said. Reuters reports both Toyota assembly plants in the area as closed.

Toyota Boshoku Corp., a Toyota Motor supplier, reports damage at a plant in Miyagi prefecture.

The Tokyo Broadcasting System reports 5 Nissan factories  to be closed.

NHK reports that a ceiling collapsed at a Honda Motor plant in Tochigi. Two workers are confirmed dead.

Japanese TV shows pictures of the Sendai airport, completely flooded.  The area is bracing for a 30 foot tsunami. Toyota’s Ohira plant is further up in the mountains and should be spared the effects of the tidal wave. As night fell, Sendai was completely blacked out.

Trains and airports are closed in Tokyo. Incoming flights to Narita are rerouted to the U.S. airforce base in Yokota.

Japan’s Jiji Press has a picture of the bent tip of the iconic Tokyo Tower.

Latest dispatch from Toyota, via email from spokesperson Dion Corbett:

TMC has established a company-wide emergency task force to take initial measures.

1. Employees
– Confirmed there have been no injuries at the Tokyo head office, as well as the Higashifuji, Tochigi office, Yamanashi office, and Toyota Motor Tohoku facilities.
– Presently gathering information on Central Motor Corporation and Kanto Auto Works.

2. Production
– All TMC plants have restarted production.
– The employees at manufacturing companies in the Tohoku region, including Toyota Motor Tohoku and Central  Motor Corporation, are evacuating to safe areas.  The situation is the same in the facilities in Hokkaido as well.
– Currently, we are checking the situation of suppliers.
– Currently nothing has been decided about production plans.

3. Dealers
-There are reports that some dealers have been damaged, however we are still investigating the details.

Note: The Central Motor Corporation and the Kanto Auto Works are part of Toyota, but technically not part of TMC. Hence, TMC plants can restart production while employees at Central Motor evacuate to safe areas. The plant in Ohira near Sendai is a Central Motor Corp. plant.

Late in the evening, we hear that some 70,000 people were evacuated from the Sendai area. On Japanese TV, there are scenes of whole towns in the Myagi prefecture, burning. Some 300 people were found dead in Sendai, killed by the tsunami.

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