ATM glitches, power outages hit Tokyo

ATM glitches, power outages hit Tokyo

 Flurries of transactions at some Mizuho Bank branches abruptly shut thousands of automated teller machines (ATMs) and the government warned of major blackouts, adding to the disorder of a city that thrives on precision and efficiency.    

As authorities struggle to avert catastrophe at a crippled nuclear-power complex 240 km to the north, Tokyo faced a test of nerves almost a week after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck.

Some residents are leaving, some are applying for passports or hoarding what they can—from food to cash and gold, a safe haven during times of crisis. Premiums for gold bars rose to as much as $2 an ounce in Tokyo.     

At the second-floor office of the Tokyo Passport Centre in the city’s Yurakucho district, queues snaked to the first floor.

“We don’t know the reason but suddenly since yesterday (Wednesday) we have had 1.5 times more people than usual coming to apply for a passport or to enquire about getting one,” said Shigeaki Ohashi, an official at the passport centre.     

Areas usually packed with office workers crammed into sushi restaurants and noodle shops have gone quiet. Many schools are closed. Companies have allowed workers to stay home and voluntarily cut power usage, submerging parts of the typically neon-lit city in darkness.     

Trade Minister Banri Kaieda said unexpected, large-scale power outages were possible but unlikley as an unusually crisp, pink sunset bathed the city.    

Mizuho said its troubles were due to a concentration of transactions at some unidentified branches.

The ATMs went down for about two hours in the morning, and failed again in the evening. Customers also could not make foreign currency withdrawals and other transactions.    
Outside a Mizuho branch in Tokyo’s Akasaka district, six staff stood in the cold winter air apologising to customers.