Tokyo Exodus Part 3: ATM Shutdowns, Power Outages Put Citizens On Edge, Gold Hoarded In Evacuation Preparations

Thursday, March 17, 2011
By Paul Martin

by Tyler Durden

The resilience of those living in the Japanese capital has been beyond admirable. After experiencing a record earthquake, hundreds of aftershocks, a historic tsunami, radioactive catastrophy 160 miles away and constant fears a northeasterly wind can bring in radioactive snow, and now unending rolling blackouts and ATM service interruptions, one has yet to hear about any mass exodus let alone coordinated complaining. That may all soon to change: Reuters reports that citizens are becoming increasingly restless and weary: ” As authorities struggle to avert catastrophe at a crippled nuclear-power complex 240 km (150 miles) 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.” In other words the mass exodus we have been predicting for 3 days now, appears imminent: “”We don’t know the reason but suddenly since yesterday 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.” You really don’t know the reason. Really?

More from Reuters:

Malfunctioning bank machines and threats of power outages on Thursday jolted a stressed Tokyo where millions stocked up on rice and other essentials, stayed indoors or crowded into airports during Japan’s nuclear crisis.

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

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.

“This taught me a lesson that I have to have at least some amount of cash with me,” said Hiromi Sugita, a 42-year-old insurance agent as she left the branch.

Mizuho shares closed down 1.46 percent against a 1.8 percent fall in the benchmark Nikkei 225 average.

Many people have stocked up food, milk and rice, emptying some shelves at supermarkets. Thousands have showed up at nearby airports without tickets, hoping to book flights out.

“Life and health are the priority over cost in doing this, so I’m escaping Japan even though I don’t feel like it,” said La Ha-Na, a South Korean student living in Tokyo.

Television showed busloads of people leaving the city.

Expect those dubbed as “idiots” by Sean Corrigan to soon realize just how dumb they are to believe that a country whose capital is about to become a ghost town can see its GDP output surge imminently as rebuilding begins.

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