Byline: Michael McNamara, with contributions from Tsukasa Furukawa, Tokyo

NEW YORK — Monday’s devastating earthquake in Japan had a number of U.S. fabric firms that source in that country bracing for production disruptions and delays in shipments.
The earthquake, which measured 7.2 on the Richter scale, was centered near Kobe, one of Japan’s major textile centers and a prime shipping port for textiles to the U.S.
A spokesman for the office of textiles at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) here said there are “five or six” major textile mills in and around the Kobe and nearby Osaka area that “are all likely to be impacted.”
It could be several weeks before normal production of textiles is restored, the spokesman said, noting, “Of course, with the reports being as uncertain as they are, it could be better than we think or it could be worse.”
The spokesman said many mill workers were at home when the early morning quake occurred and that mills were still trying to find out if any workers have been killed or injured. Overall reports of fatalities numbered nearly 1,700 by mid-Tuesday. Many converters here said they were seeking to determine whether their contracted dyeing and finishing plants were operating and the status of shipments. While JETRO officials didn’t know exactly how many dyers and finishers surround Kobe and Osaka, it is estimated that there are 30 to 50.
Barney Kelley, a partner with fabric converter Nuance Inc., which contracts anywhere from six to 10 plants in Japan, said, “We started talking to people [Tuesday morning], and they’ve figured out alternative routes to ship fabrics, possibly through Yokohama.”
“We still don’t know how much we have at Kobe or how much was on its way to Kobe,” Kelley said, noting there could be some delays in delivery. “And, with the communications to Japan being difficult right now, we may not get an answer that quickly, either.” Kelley said as soon as he knows which fabric shipments, if any, are being delayed, he will notify customers.
Martin Tandler, president of Tandler Textile, another converter that finishes fabrics in Japan, said the earthquake was centered “away from where we do our printing and finishing.”
“We could expect minor disruptions, but we ship from Osaka, and while it was near the earthquake, we understand it was far enough away from Kobe,” Tandler said.
David Caplan, chief executive officer of Metro Fabrics, said, “I’m still trying to reach Japan to find out the status of goods.”
As for fiber operations in Japan, DuPont’s Lycra spandex plant in Shiga, near Osaka, reported no damage. However the plant was “temporarily shut down on Tuesday to check for damage,” said Charles Holliday, DuPont’s corporate senior vice president, based in Tokyo.