LATEST NEWS FROM JAPAN: Saturday, March 26, 2011


Two weeks after the tsunami struck, the official death toll passed 10,000 yesterday with a further 17,500 listed as missing, as rescuers continue to discover bodies, some of which are being interred in mass graves despite Japan’s cultural preference for cremation.

Government figures showed 660,000 households still do not have water and more than 209,000 do not have electricity, with damage now estimated at £192bn, making this the most expensive natural disaster on record.


High levels of radioactive iodine have been detected in the Pacific Ocean waters just off Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant with readings 1,250 times above the legal limit, according to Japanese nuclear officials.

The economic disruptions from Japan’s crisis have cascaded into another, crucial link in the global supply chain: cargo shipping.

Avoiding Tokyo NYT

Fearing the potential impact on crews, cargo and vessels worth tens of millions of dollars, some of the world’s biggest container shipping lines have restricted or barred their ships from calling on ports in Tokyo Bay over concerns about radiation from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.


Radioactive vapour from the plant has contaminated farm produce and dairy products in the region, leading to shipment halts in Japan as well as the United States, European Union, China and a host of other nations.

Higher than normal radiation has also been detected in tap water in and around Tokyo, some 250km from the plant, leading authorities at one stage to warn against using it for baby milk formula.


In Japan’s northeast, more than a quarter of a million people are in shelters. Exhausted rescuers are still sifting through the wreckage of towns and villages, retrieving bodies.

Amid the suffering, though, there was a sense the corner was being turned. Aid is flowing and phone, electricity, postal and bank services have resumed, though they can still be patchy.


Radiation fears in Japan have grown after officials admitted that the nuclear reactor core at Fukushima may be cracked.

It raises the spectre of much more radioactivity leaking into the atmosphere.

In a major setback in the race to prevent a further leakage, it is feared the containment shield around the nuclear fuel rods might have been weakened, resulting in dangerous material leaking out.

Just how far the contamination has spread was still being investigated last night, although spinach grown  135 miles to the south at a vegetable research complex on the outskirts of Tokyo has been found to be coated with radioactive matter.


When the earthquake struck Japan at 2:46 pm on March 11, Masaru Ouchi, an electrician who was just putting his tools back after a routine maintenance job at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, knew exactly what to do.

Masaru Ouchi (r.) reads the local newspaper together with his grandmother, Toshiko Omori every morning. After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, nearly half a million people have lost their homes or been displaced.

He dropped everything, he recalls, ran to a prearranged assembly point outside the plant’s administrative offices, and helped his boss count fellow workers. When they were all checked in he jumped into his car and drove to the school.

His father, Mitsuo, a plasterer working elsewhere in the reactor complex, fled immediately. He stopped at his home nearby to pick up his wife and mother-in-law, then drove to find his son.

As the family sheltered in the dark, cold school that night with hundreds of their neighbors, none of them knew that a massive tsunami had knocked out critical cooling systems at Fukushima Daiichi, just a few miles down the road.


Two weeks after a devastating earthquake and tsunami plunged Japan into its worst crisis since World War II, local refugee families are starting to see their lives restored to some semblance of a daily routine.

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As Reuters is reporting, international food aid is flowing and even mobile banks are appearing in some of the northeast Japan’s most devastated regions.

Still, specific figures surrounding the disaster are continuing to emerge which are simultaneously shocking and heartbreaking. The death toll topped 10,000 on Friday, with hopes for those who remain missing continuing to dwindle.


A magnitude-6.5 earthquake shook eastern Japan off the quake-ravaged coast on Monday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey reported, prompting Japan to issue a tsunami alert.;_ylt=AhArvujhT4KUuJSGHDxpUHys0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTQ1czRmMGRwBGFzc2V0A2FwLzIwMTEwMzI3L2FzX2phcGFuX2VhcnRocXVha2VfdHN1bmFtaV9hbGVydARjY29kZQNtb3N0cG9wdWxhcgRjcG9zAzUEcG9zAzIEcHQDaG9tZV9jb2tlBHNlYwN5bl9oZWFkbGluZV9saXN0BHNsawNtYWduaXR1ZGUtNjU

G. D. Williams       © 2011

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