Posts Tagged ‘ Japanese Earthquake ’

Japan’s Disaster Toll Rises With 18,000 Deaths

By Eric Talmadge and Mari Yamaguchi for The Associated Press

The toll of Japan’s triple disaster came into clearer focus Monday after police estimates showed more than 18,000 people died, the World Bank said rebuilding may cost $235 billion and more cases of radiation-tainted vegetables and tap water turned up.

Japanese officials reported progress over the weekend in their battle to gain control over a nuclear complex that began leaking radiation after suffering quake and tsunami damage, though the crisis was far from over, with a dangerous new surge in pressure reported in one of the plant’s six reactors.

The announcement by Japan’s Health Ministry late Sunday that tests had detected excess amounts of radioactive elements on canola and chrysanthemum greens marked a low moment in a day that had been peppered with bits of positive news: First, a teenager and his grandmother were found alive nine days after being trapped in their earthquake-shattered home. Then, the operator of the overheated nuclear plant said two of the six reactor units were safely cooled down.

“We consider that now we have come to a situation where we are very close to getting the situation under control,” Deputy Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama said.

Still, serious problems remained at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex. Pressure unexpectedly rose in a third unit’s reactor, meaning plant operators may need to deliberately release radioactive steam. That has only added to public anxiety over radiation that began leaking from the plant after a monstrous earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan on March 11 and left the plant unstable. As day broke Monday, Japan’s military resumed dousing of the complex’s troubled Unit 4.

The World Bank said in report Monday that Japan may need five years to rebuild from the catastrophic disasters, which caused up to $235 billion in damage, saying the cost to private insurers will be up to $33 billion and that the government will spend $12 billion on reconstruction in the current national budget and much more later.

The safety of food and water was of particular concern. The government halted shipments of spinach from one area and raw milk from another near the nuclear plant after tests found iodine exceeded safety limits. Tokyo’s tap water, where iodine turned up Friday, now has cesium. Rain and dust are also tainted.

Early Monday , the Health Ministry advised Iitate, a village of 6,000 people about 30 kilometers (19 miles) northwest of the Fukushima plant, not to drink tap water due to elevated levels of iodine. Ministry spokesman Takayuki Matsuda said iodine three times the normal level was detected there — about one twenty-sixth of the level of a chest X-ray in one liter of water.

In all cases, the government said the radiation levels were too small to pose an immediate health risk.

But Tsugumi Hasegawa was skeptical as she cared for her 4-year-old daughter at a shelter in a gymnasium crammed with 1,400 people about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the plant.

“I still have no idea what the numbers they are giving about radiation levels mean. It’s all so confusing,” said Hasegawa, 29, from the small town of Futuba in the shadow of the nuclear complex. “And I wonder if they aren’t playing down the dangers to keep us from panicking. I don’t know who to trust.”

All six of the nuclear complex’s reactor units saw trouble after the disasters knocked out cooling systems. In a small advance, the plant’s operator declared Units 5 and 6 — the least troublesome — under control after their nuclear fuel storage pools cooled to safe levels. Progress was made to reconnect two other units to the electric grid and in pumping seawater to cool another reactor and replenish it and a sixth reactor’s storage pools.

But the buildup in pressure inside the vessel holding Unit 3’s reactor presented some danger, forcing officials to consider venting. The tactic produced explosions of radioactive gas during the early days of the crisis.

“Even if certain things go smoothly, there would be twists and turns,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters. “At the moment, we are not so optimistic that there will be a breakthrough.”

Growing concerns about radiation add to the overwhelming chain of disasters Japan has struggled with since the 9.0-magnitude quake. The resulting tsunami ravaged the northeastern coast. All told, police estimates show more than about 18,400 died. More than 15,000 deaths are likely in Miyagi, the prefecture that took the full impact of the wave, said a police spokesman.

“It is very distressing as we recover more bodies day by days,” said Hitoshi Sugawara, the spokesman.

Police in other parts of the disaster area declined to provide estimates, but confirmed about 3,400 deaths. Nationwide, official figures show the disasters killing more than 8,600 people, and leaving more than 12,800 people missing, but those two lists may have some overlap.

The disasters have displaced another 452,000, who are living in shelters.

Fuel, food and water remain scarce. The government in recent days acknowledged being caught ill-prepared by an enormous disaster that the prime minister has called the worst crisis since World War II.

Bodies are piling up in some of the devastated communities and badly decomposing even amid chilly rain and snow.

“The recent bodies — we can’t show them to the families. The faces have been purple, which means they are starting to decompose,” says Shuji Horaguchi, a disaster relief official setting up a center to process the dead in Natori, on the outskirts of the tsunami-flattened city of Sendai. “Some we’re finding now have been in the water for a long time, they’re not in good shape. Crabs and fish have eaten parts.”

Contamination of food and water compounds the government’s difficulties, heightening the broader public’s sense of dread about safety. Consumers in markets snapped up bottled water, shunned spinach from Ibaraki — the prefecture where the tainted spinach was found — and overall expressed concern about food safety.

Experts have said the amounts of iodine detected in milk, spinach and water pose no discernible risks to public health unless consumed in enormous quantities over a long time. Iodine breaks down quickly, after eight days, minimizing its harmfulness, unlike other radioactive isotopes such as cesium-137 or uranium-238, which remain in the environment for decades or longer.

High levels of iodine are linked to thyroid cancer, one of the least deadly cancers if treated. Cesium is a longer-lasting element that affects the whole body and raises cancer risk.

Rain forecast for the Fukushima area also could further localize the contamination, bringing the radiation to the ground closer to the plant.

Edano tried to reassure the public for a second day in a row. “If you eat it once, or twice, or even for several days, it’s not just that it’s not an immediate threat to health, it’s that even in the future it is not a risk,” Edano said. “Experts say there is no threat to human health.”

No contamination has been reported in Japan’s main food export — seafood — worth about $1.6 billion a year and less than 0.3 percent of its total exports.

Amid the anxiety, there were moments of joy on Sunday. An 80-year-old woman and her teenage grandson were rescued from their flattened two-story house after nine days, when the teen pulled himself to the roof and shouted to police for help.

Other survivors enjoyed smaller victories. Kiyoshi Hiratsuka and his family managed to pull his beloved Harley Davidson motorcycle from the rubble in their hometown of Onagawa. The 37-year-old mechanic said he knows it will never work anymore. “But I want to keep it as a memorial.”

 

Pray for Japan

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

It has been a week, and as we see this disaster in Japan continuing to unfold, I wonder if we will notice and apply how these events or some other catastrophe which could befall us and affect us in our own daily lives. Maybe some people have related the events in Japan of the last week to their own life, but for many others, it is entirely possible that for them, the events in Japan are too far away and do not personally touch them in anyway to be relatable.

We are far too guilty of thinking to ourselves that Japan, or Haiti, or Pakistan or Egypt or Libya are far away from here. These events do not affect me or any of my loved ones. Why should I have such a personal stake in events in countries and places so far away that will never affect me?

Will we finally see that all this is impermanent? Will we learn to care about our planet and our fellow human beings? Will we finally learn to be proactive about these things? Or will we wait till these disasters become all too real and unmanageable before we wake up from our slumber?
We pray that we will all wake up and participate in the healing of our precious and only earth and all her inhabitants before it is too late. We pray that the people of the world realize that we all share this beautiful, small blue planet and that what affects one, affects all us mankind. We pray that we are all less selfish and more selfless in regards to our fellow man. And we pray that regardless of your religious and personal beliefs that you will please pray for Japan in their time of need.

Pakistan Expresses “Total Solidarity and Support” to Quake, Tsunami-hit Japan

As Reported by Asian News International

Pakistan has expressed its “total solidarity and support” to the government and people of Japan in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the country on Friday.

“We are deeply shocked over the terrible news of the strong earthquake and tsunami that has hit Japan. At this time of great trial, I wish you to know that the Government and people of Pakistan stand with you and the Japanese people in total solidarity and support,” President Asif Ali Zardari said in his condolence message to Emperor Akihito of Japan.

“Our profound sympathy and condolences to all those who lost their loved ones. Pakistan stands ready to provide any assistance to help our Japanese friends overcome the effects of this enormous natural calamity,” he added.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani also expressed solidarity with the Japanese government and its people.

In a message to his Japanese counterpart Naoto Kan, Gilani said: “We stand ready to help, in any manner, to alleviate the suffering and assist our Japanese friends to overcome effects of this terrible natural calamity.”

Japan’s 8.9 Earthquake “Historic” says Geophysicist

By Caroline Kyungae Smith for The Chicago Tribune

“Japan’s earthquake will be considered a great quake,” said Dale Grant, a geophysicist with the US Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. “Japan has never seen this before.”

Any quake above an 8 in magnitude is considered a great quake, Grant said. Damage can span from hundreds to thousands of miles.

The quake was centered about 80 miles east of Japan.

A few days earlier, Japan was hit with a 7.2 earthquake that many are saying was the precursor to today’s quake, he said.

“A 7.2 quake has 80 or 90 times less energy than an 8.9 quake,” he said.

As of 3 a.m., there were at least 12 aftershocks following the earthquake, with the highest aftershocks measuring 7.1 and 6.8, Grant said.

“This is what we’d expecte from an 8.9 earthquake.”

The greater concern is the tsunami that was triggered by the quake, he said. “Tsunamis can travel up to 450 miles per hour,” he said.

“Warnings have been issued for the Hawaiian Islands,” he said. “We’ll probably see an impact.”

The biggest earthquakes in recent history occurred last year in Chile at 8.8 and in 2004 in Indonesia at 9.1, Grant said.

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