West Japan power worker nabbed for allegedly causing blackouts at over 1,000 buildings

KOCHI — An employee of a western Japan company that provides power supply construction services was arrested on Sept. 10 for allegedly causing a blackout affecting over 1,000 establishments, including residences in the city of Kochi.
Kochi Prefectural Police’s Kochi Minami Police Station arrested Yuya Arisawa, 26, an employee of Yondenko Corp., based in the city of Kochi, on suspicion of alleged violation of the Electricity Business Act and forcible obstruction of business. The suspect has admitted to the allegations against him, saying, “I did it.”
Power supply switches on utility poles around the city had been illegally controlled from around 2015, and there had been several blackout incidents in surrounding areas. The police station is investigating the possibility of the events being related.
The suspect is specifically accused of illicitly operating the on/off switches placed on utility poles, which are managed by Shikoku Electric Power Co., based in the city of Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture, thereby causing power outages at 1,029 buildings, including houses in the surrounding area, and disrupting the business operations of Shikoku Electric Power Co., from around 10:10 p.m. to 10:55 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2019.
According to Shikoku Electric Power Co., the on/off switch that controls the power distribution of electric lines can be regulated using a designated pole from the ground, or by pulling a rope after climbing up the utility pole. Since 2015, there have been a total of seven incidents in areas near the city of Kochi where the power switch had been tampered with. Blackouts occurred in five of these cases, affecting a total of over 5,000 establishments.
Yondenko Corp. is an affiliated company of the Shikoku Electric Power group, and is involved in construction work of facilities and equipment used in transmitting and distributing power. According to Yondenko Corp., the suspect had been responsible for power supply construction work within the city of Kochi. Although the suspect was off duty during the time of his alleged crime, he was scheduled to do construction work to replace electric lines immediately after, which was apparently postponed due to the blackout.
Yondenko Corp. President Yoshinori Miyauchi issued a comment on Sept. 10 stating, “I express my sincere apologies to all parties involved. We will strive to prevent a recurrence and recover trust to the best of our ability.”
(Japanese original by Yusuke Kori, Kochi Bureau)
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