In the second of our series of blog posts acknowledging the hard work off NTT East’s employees in rebuilding Japan’s communications infrastructure throughout the twelve months since disaster struck,  we hear from Tetsuhiro Yamaya, Chief Officer, Disaster Countermeasures Office, NTT East Miyagi Branch. In this excerpt, Tetsuhiro explains the difficulties of coping with scare resources to try and restore communications in the aftermath of the earthquake.

 “On the day of the earthquake, NTT East’s Miyagi Branch Disaster Countermeasures Office had its hands full coping with power outages that affected the whole prefecture. Although it was still impossible to identify the extent of overall damage with communications down, we received a constant stream of news of power outages. We had issued instructions to secure power for exchange buildings knocked out by power outages by switching to batteries, on-premise generators, and power supply vehicles, but we were unable to cope with the sheer quantity of stoppages.

 

 

Mobile power supply vehicles

 

We faced some tough decisions. Our fuel stocks in Miyagi Prefecture were limited, and if we used them all up, we would be unable to keep emergency generators, on-premise generators, and power supply vehicles going. Sendai Refinery, Tohoku’s only oil refinery, had gone up in flames, and we had not yet found any alternative fuel source. At the very least, we wanted to avoid total disruption of communications by keeping buildings that housed network backbone equipment going, and so we decided to save all remaining fuel for powering those buildings.

However, we needed a daily 70,000 litres of fuel — four large tank trucks’ worth — just to keep on-premise generators at critical buildings going. The tankers dispatched at our request by NTT East’s Head Office Disaster Countermeasures Office actually arrived only a few hours before our remaining fuel was expected to run out, and so it really was touch and go whether we would be able to keep our systems going.

From that day on, we kept power supply vehicles and tankers stationed at critical buildings around the clock to guard against the frequent powerful aftershocks of seismic intensity 5 or higher and large-scale blackouts caused by power shortages.

Communications facilities other than the critical buildings ceased functioning one after another as their batteries or on premise generator fuel ran out. All we could do was watch as they went off-line one by one, and it was really distressing.” 

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