Sony airlifts supplies to tsunami-stricken factory

Sony shut six factories due to an 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan, but no fatalities have been reported

Japanese electronics giant Sony airlifted emergency supplies by helicopter to hundreds of employees stuck at a Blu-ray Disc factory in Miyagi, Japan, on Saturday, a day after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake sent a massive tsunami rolling through the facility.

The factory, which employs around 1,000 workers, was able to move everyone to the second floor before the wave hit, said George Boyd, a Sony representative in Tokyo. The bottom floor was inundated.

Workers were forced to spend the night at the factory on Friday. Many of those workers were evacuated Saturday, but about 400 remain on site, he said. No fatalities have been reported so far.

In all, Sony has shut six factories due to the earthquake for reasons ranging from the tsunami to power outages.

Sony "has not suffered major damage except for that (Miyagi) factory," Boyd said, though he added that it's hard to judge the overall impact of the earthquake so soon.

The other five factories, which include battery suppliers, chemical works and a chip factory, should be able to resume normal operation after power outages subside, he said.

However, an explosion reported late Saturday afternoon at a nuclear facility in Fukushima prefecture threatened to cause further disruption to the region. Engineers there have been wrestling to prevent a potential major disaster.

The Sony factories are all in either the Miyagi or Fukushima prefectures, northeastern areas close to where the earthquake originated.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, which covers Tokyo and a number of other areas east of Japan's capital, has said residents should expect power shortages because the earthquake and resulting tsunami caused extensive damage to some stations and caused a number of power stations to shut down, including nuclear, hydro and thermal.

Over 1 million people were without power as of early Saturday, the utility said.

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Dan Nystedt

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