LONDON — A massive earthquake has hit northeast Japan that, together with a resulting tsunami, has caused loss of life and extensive damage. Countries around the Pacific rim, including the United States and Canada, and Pacific islands are on a tsunami alert, according to reports.
The widespread damage and flooding that has resulted is expected to severely curtail technology manufacturing, at least for a period. Several chip companies have wafer fabs in the region.
Although major buildings in Japan are constructed to be proof against earthquakes this is one of the largest earthquakes to hit the country for many years. According to reports one of five or six after-shocks measured 7.1 and a resulting tsunami has been reported at 10-meters in height (33 foot) where it struck the city of Sendai. This was according to the BBC referencing the Kyodo news agency.
The quake's epicenter was 20 miles under the ocean off the coast ofHonshu, Japan, and has affected the coastal prefectures of Miyagi, Iwateand Fukushima and asfar south as Tokyo. A tsunami warning has been applied across thePacific Ocean and the wave was set to affect the Philippines, Indonesia,Taiwan,Hawaii, the Pacific coast of Russiaand North and South America.
The tsunami was expected to take just over 6 hours to reach Hawaii,six hours to reach Alaska, 10 to 11 hours to reach California and up to24 hours to each thesouthern-most tip of South America. Evacuation of at-risk buildings onHawaii had begun before the tsunami hit the island.
In Japan as many as 4 million people are thought to be without electricity and firesare burning unchecked along the Japanese coast, according to reports.
Many electronics companies
Many electronics companies are located in northeast Japan in the areas worst hit by Japan's earthquake and tsunami.
According to Reuters : a Toyota Motor Corp. joint venture with Panasonic Corp. , Prime Earth EV Energy, in Miyagi prefecture which makes batteries for hybrid cars has suspended production. Sony Corp. has two factories in Fukushima, four in Miyagi. All are closed and employees evacuated and the extent of damage not yet known. One Miyagi factory makes semiconductors, the other three make optical film and various other parts. The two Fukushima factories make batteries, according to Reuters .
Freescale Semiconductor Inc. has had a long involvement in Sendai with a 6-inch wafer fab there that was originally constructed in 1987. The company has been trying to sell or close the facility and had said it would discontinue manufacturing in Sendai by the fourth quarter of 2011.
Both Fujitsu and Toshiba have wafer fabs in Iwate prefecture. Iwate Toshiba Electronics Co. Ltd. survived a recently announced restructuring of Toshiba's semiconductor business. Fujitsu's Iwate plant manufactures flash microcontrollers and system chips for games machines, digital appliances and automotive products.
Fujitsu also has manufacturing in Fukushima. It's Aizuwakamatsu wafer fab is the birth-place of semiconductor mass-production at Fujitsu.
On Semiconductor 's Aizu fab in Fukushima prefecture manufactures a wide range of chips including logic and analog circuits on CMOS, MOSFETs, IGBTs and high-voltage analog circuits.
A spokesperson at Renesas Electronics in Munich said that they had heard from their headquarters in Tokyo that they were no injuries there but had no news from their manufacturing plants.
The U.S., which maintains a large military presence in Okinawa, is so far apparently unaffected by the tsunami. In a statement, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said: “I'vebeen kept informed all day long about the tsunami in Japan, the earthquake andtsunami. As best we can tell, all of our people are OK, our ships andmilitary facilities are all in pretty good shape. We obviously have hugesympathy for the people of Japan and we are prepared to help them in any way wepossibly can. It's obviously a very sophisticated country, but this is ahuge disaster and we will do all, anything we are asked to do to helpout.”
Observers have noted that U.S. air and naval forces could be pressed into action to help with Japanese recovery efforts.