Japan makes final preparations for Y2K

With hours to go until the new year begins in Japan, companies and organisations across the nation are preparing to counter whatever incidents Y2K may cause.

Thousands of extra workers will be on hand overnight to watch systems and ensure the new year rolls in with few problems. In the financial industry, 268,000 workers will see the new year at their desks, according to the Financial Supervisory Agency, while the Telecommunication Carriers Association says around 100,000 staff will be working at major telecommunications companies over the period and major computer makers will have around 100,000 workers on duty.

IPSs have established a common monitor center inside a downtown Tokyo telecommunications building to trade information, keep a watch on the Japanese Internet and also monitor the situation overseas while passing on potentially valuable early warnings to Internet providers further west.

Outside of industry, staff will be on hand at all government agencies and regional governments to monitor the impact, if any, of the problem. Information from throughout Japan will be collected by a team at the Prime Minister's residence before being released to the media and the International Y2K Coordination Center in Washington by way of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA). MoFA will also collect information from overseas via a monitoring center it has established.

Government bureaucrats working will be joined by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who is scheduled to provide an early look at Y2K status at a am press conference and then follow with a more detailed initial round-up at a second press conference at 6am.

The National Police Agency is mobilising 106,000 officers across the country to be on hand in case any problems occur. The number is much higher than the 40,000 usually on duty over the year end period and includes around 1000 senior officers.

With an eye to possible terrorism over the new year, Japan's Self Defence Force will have 96,000 troops on duty and more than 100 aircraft ready. Those on duty, around 12,000 more than usual, will include a chemical warfare team.

To power all of this extra work, the country's electricity providers are running power plants at higher than normal levels and bringing into service extra generators to cope with any spikes in usage or emergencies that might occur.

In contrast to the thousands of Japanese who will be working, the country's auto-teller machines will be idle. With the exception of Citibank NA and Tokai Bank, all of Japan's main banks are shutting down their machines from New Year's eve until January 3 or 4 as a precaution. Tokai Bank will be running them in the daytime over the period and only Citibank will continue 24-hour operation.

Some other services will stop briefly. Many hotels and commercial buildings will be stopping elevators around midnight while many of the nation's railway companies plan to stop trains at the nearest station just before midnight and resume service soon after.

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