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Pacific The Human Toll (in The Wake Of The Tokyo Earthquake)


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
I set this thread up to keep a running record of the human catastrophe following the 8.9 earthquake on March 11, 2011. Feel free to discuss the issues and post follow-up stories. spnadmin

How to help relief options can be found at this link http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/11/how-to-help-japan-earthquake-relief_n_834484.html

Concern about food, fuel shortages in wake of Japan disasters

Tokyo (CNN) -- Nicky Washida scoured her central Tokyo neighborhood looking for food Saturday, but was unsuccessful.

The convenience stores had already been stripped of food, batteries and most supplies when she visited in the wake of the previous day's massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake. She was hoping they had been able to restock, she wrote in a CNN iReport.

But on Saturday, the local shopping center was closed. And at the convenience stories, only alcohol-free beer and green tea-flavored candy remained.

"The one supermarket that is still open is so packed I couldn't even get through the doors," said Washida, a British woman who lives in Tokyo with her Japanese husband and their three children, ages 6, 4 and 1. "People in Tokyo seem to be panic-buying under the assumption that food will not be getting through to Tokyo for the next few days."

Stores across the city were mostly sold out of bread Saturday, said iReporter David Powell, who sent in photos of shelves bare but for a few rolls. While some loaves and rolls were available, he said, they were selling fast, as were dairy products.

Long lines persisted at food stores and at the pump as concern grew in Tokyo that food and fuel shortages may arise in the aftermath of the earthquake, which spawned a tsunami that devastated coastal areas of northeastern Japan.

Gas sales were being limited to 20 liters (5.3 gallons) per car, Powell said.

Thomas Nixon snapped a picture of empty shelves at a convenience store in the Tokyo suburb of Harajuku. He and his family stopped in because his wife and daughters wanted to get something to drink before walking to another family member's home. "I had a feeling the shelves would be bare," he said.

"The biggest problem we have right now is, there's no food anywhere," Ryan McDonald told CNN. "... All the convenience stores are closed. Grocery stores are closed. Everyone is on the road trying to find something open, and it's just gridlock everywhere."

Meanwhile, the threat of aftershocks persisted. Powell sent a photograph of a family shopping at the National Market in Tokyo with helmets on. Washida said her family slept together Friday night "to comfort the kids and just in case there were any more major aftershocks."

She said her daughter is worried about the aftershocks, but her 4-year-old son "thought it was cool, of course."

The aftershocks are coming regularly, at roughly three-hour intervals, said CNN iReporter Aaron Lace. "It's something that you would not wish upon your worst enemy," he said.

But, he said, some semblance of normalcy was returning to Tokyo, and while some "panic buying" did take place, there is food available.

Stores are out of baked goods and prepared lunches, or bento boxes, and juice, he said. But meat is available and rice is "in abundance. Nobody's starving."

Still, he said, "it's really quiet. It's unnervingly quiet."

"All stores are out of flashlights, are running low on batteries and are out of bread and water or are running low," iReporter Jessica Tekawa said. The bento boxes also are gone, she said, which is unusual for Japan.

Still, those in Tokyo know that their experiences pale next to those living in the hard-hit areas of northeastern Japan.

"Tokyo was bad, but we really had no idea until the news this morning just how bad it has been north of here," Washida said. "We have friends up near Sendai we are unable to contact, so we are worried about them."

In the hard-hit area of Sendai, CNN's Paula Han{censored}s reported long lines for food and fuel as well.

Janie Eudy of Pineville, Louisiana, told CNN that her husband, Danny Joe, was on the move south Saturday. He and other workers had been inside the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant when the quake struck.

She said he and others, driving rental cars, went to a nearby town in hopes of finding a hotel room, but the town was gone. They continue heading south trying to find shelter and food, Eudy said. Her husband told her a Japanese man was able to find enough food to make soup for 40 people on Friday.

Meanwhile, those in Tokyo appeared shell-shocked Saturday, Washida said. "People are walking around quietly, going about their business, but there is a strong sense that this is not just another ordinary Saturday. 'Dazed' is probably the best way to describe most of the faces I have seen today."

Evidence of the quake can be seen everywhere, she said -- "torn up paving stones, pieces fallen from buildings."

She has been focused on cleaning up her 17th-floor apartment. Every room suffered damage from the quake, she said. Asked if anything of value was lost, she said, "No, not really. We had some smashed photo frames, but the only thing of value to me is the family. Anything else can be replaced."

Lace, a Canadian, is allowing strangers to stay in his home because they have nowhere else to go, he told CNN. He was attending a college graduation at a Tokyo theater Friday when the roof collapsed because of the quake. He said he stayed at the scene and tried to help dig out survivors.

"It's really bad, it is," he said, adding the Japanese "are in a very gloomy mood."



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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Japan Pushes to Rescue Survivors as Quake Toll Rises


NAKAMINATO, Japan — Japan mobilized a nationwide rescue effort on Saturday to pluck survivors from collapsed buildings and rush food and water to thousands in an earthquake and tsunami zone under siege, without water, electricity, heat or telephone service.

Entire villages in parts of Japan’s northern Pacific coast have vanished under a wall of water, many communities are cut off, and a nuclear emergency was unfolding at two stricken reactors as Japanese tried to absorb the scale of the destruction after Friday’s powerful earthquake and devastating tsunami.

Japanese news media estimates of the death toll ranged between 1,300 and 1,700, but the total could rise. Many communities were scrambling to find the missing; in the port town of Minamisanriku, nearly 10,000 people were unaccounted for, according to the public broadcaster NHK. Much of the northeast was impassable, and by late Saturday rescuers had not arrived in the worst-hit areas.

More than 300,000 people have been evacuated, including tens of thousands fleeing the zone around the nuclear plants in Fukushima Prefecture even before news that problems at one plant appeared to be escalating quickly.

Most of the deaths were from drowning, but Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and firefighters were working to prevent a higher toll, rushing up the coast in helicopters and struggling to put out fires burning in industrial complexes or sweeping through Japan’s many vulnerable wooden homes. Japan had clearly learned the lessons of the devastating Kobe earthquake of 1995, when the government refused to accept offers of international help early enough, leading to criticism that some of the 6,000 deaths could have been avoided.

The United States, which has several military bases in Japan, is sending in helicopters, destroyers and an aircraft carrier, the Ronald Reagan, which has the ability to act as a hospital as well as to convert seawater into drinking water, said a spokesman for the Navy’s Seventh Fleet in Japan. Severe aftershocks continued to rock a traumatized country. The United States Geological Survey recorded 90 quakes off the eastern coast on Saturday alone, five of them with magnitudes larger than 6.0. Kyodo News reported more than 125 aftershocks since Friday afternoon’s earthquake.

The continual swaying and rolling of the ground deepened the disorientation of a nation accustomed to disaster, but which has not experienced anything on this scale for generations.

Compounding those fears was uncertainty about the scale of the radiation damage from an explosion at one of the nuclear plants in Fukushima, in the earthquake zone, and a growing sense on Sunday that the crisis at one plant was much worse than it had been even hours before. The Japanese authorities were handing out iodine to residents in the area. Some experts believe iodine can help head off long-term effects of radiation exposure, including thyroid cancer.

The breadth of the disaster poses new challenges for a fragile government struggling with political scandals, continued economic woes and public frustration over its inability to weaken entrenched bureaucrats.

Aerial photographs of ravaged coastal areas showed a string of cities and villages leveled by the power of the tsunami. Plumes of black smoke rose from burning industrial plants. Stranded ships bobbed in the water. Town after town reported that parts of their population were unaccounted for. Survivors gathered on rooftops, frantically shouting or signaling for help.

With phone service cut throughout the area, some radio and television stations broadcast pleas from people trying desperately to find their family members or at least to assure them that they were alive. “This is Kimura Ayako in Sapporo, looking for the Tanakas in Soma,” one caller said. “We are O.K. Please tell us your location.”

Hatsue Takahashi of Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture sent out a message on NHK Education TV to Rina Takahashi in the same town: “Hang on,” she said. “I’ll go there to meet you.” And Sachiko Atara of Iwaki city called out across the airwaves in hopes of reaching Hideharu Komatsu in Sendai: “We are all O.K., waiting for your contact.”

In Oarai, a port about 150 miles south of hard-hit Sendai, fishing boats, truck and cars lay 100 yards back from the water’s edge, deposited in a jagged line like seashells left behind by the farthest reach of powerful waves. Some fishing boats had capsized; those swept into town by the tsunami teetered on their sides, or were tossed upside down.

JR, the railway company, reported that three passenger trains had not been accounted for as of Saturday night, amid fears that they were swept away by the tsunami. There were reports of as many as 3,400 buildings destroyed and 200 fires raging. Analysts estimated that total insured losses from the quake could hit $15 billion, Reuters reported.

Even as estimates of the death toll from Friday’s quake rose, Japan’s prime minister, Naoto Kan, said 50,000 troops would be mobilized for the increasingly desperate rescue recovery effort, according to The Associated Press. Meanwhile, several ships from the United States Navy joined the rescue effort. The McCampbell and the Curtis Wilbur, both destroyers, prepared to move into position off Miyagi Prefecture.

In addition, the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group was expected to arrive Sunday. Besides serving as a hospital, it can also be used as a platform for refueling helicopters from the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. Japan was also accepting offers of help from other countries.

Convoys of Japanese military helicopters could be seen flying over the earthquake zone on Saturday, and trucks filled with soldiers were moving into the area.

While aftershocks from the earthquake continued, the tsunami wreaked the most damage. Tsunami experts estimated that despite Japan’s extensive warning systems and drills, there would only have been between 15 and 30 minutes after the earthquake struck before the tsunami washed in, leaving those in coastal areas precious little time to flee.

One-third of Kesennuma, a city of 74,000, was reported to be submerged, the BBC said, and photographs showed fires continued to rage there. Iwate, a coastal city of 23,000 people, was reported to be almost completely destroyed, the BBC said.

Local television here reported that the authorities had found 300 to 400 bodies in the town of Rikuzentakata, in Iwate Prefecture. In Minamisoma, in Fukushima Prefecture, 97 residents of a retirement home were found dead. And an additional 100 bodies were found Saturday in Miyagi Prefecture, near the quake’s epicenter, bringing the total in those places to more than 500.

Although aftershocks were continuing to rattle Tokyo, signs of normality were appearing. Flight schedules were resuming at Tokyo’s principal airports, Narita and Haneda, and most of Tokyo’s trains and subways were operating.

Farther north, aerial photos showed floodwaters receding from the runways at the airport in Sendai, perhaps the hardest hit of the coastal cities.

Military units were in Sendai on Saturday, working at evacuation shelters or helping search-and-rescue teams. Sendai’s Web site, posted in Tokyo because much of the north was still without electricity, recorded a grim list of the toll: 1.4 million homes in the city without electricity, and 500,000 homes without water. At a school turned refugee center, Nakano Elementary School, 350 people were lifted out by a Self-Defense Forces helicopter, and 400 people in Arahama Elementary School were in the process of being plucked out by helicopters.

“The rescue is going on through the night, of course,” Michael Tonge, a teacher from Britain, said early Sunday morning from his home in Sendai.

Mr. Tonge said many people in Sendai were still without power, although his home had not lost electricity. “The government is telling people not to use it too much as they need the power to help bring the nuclear reactor under control,” he said.

No buildings had collapsed in his neighborhood, Mr. Tonge said, and people were not panicking — typical of a nation accustomed to order and schooled to stay calm and constructive.

“The few shops open have people queuing nicely,” he said, “with no pushing or fighting or anything.” He said he hoped the earthquake would not come to be known as the “Sendai quake.”

“I haven’t heard it being called the Sendai quake here, but if that’s what people are calling it, then that is unfortunate,” said Mr. Tonge, who lives there with his wife, Yuka, and their 3-year-old daughter, Aoi. “This is a beautiful city with nice people. A great place to live.”


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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004


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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
An estimated 170,000 people have been evacuated from the area around a quake-damaged nuclear power station in north-east Japan that was hit by an explosion, the UN atomic watchdog says.

A building housing a reactor was destroyed in Saturday's blast at the Fukushima No.1 plant.

The authorities said the reactor itself was intact inside its steel container.

Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami is believed to have left more than 1,000 people dead.

The Japanese government has sought to play down fears of a meltdown at Fukushima No.1, saying that radiation levels around the stricken plant have now fallen.

The term "meltdown" raises associations with two nuclear accidents in living memory: Three Mile Island in the US in 1979, and Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986.

In both, excess heat in the reactor caused fuel to melt - and in the first, wider melting of the core. The question is whether the same thing has happened in Fukushima.

It appears that the reactor was shut down well before any melting occurred, which should reduce considerably the risk of radioactive materials entering the environment.

However, the detection of caesium isotopes outside the power station buildings could imply that the core has been exposed to the air.

Although Japan has a long and largely successful nuclear power programme, officials have been less than honest about some incidents in the past, meaning that official reassurances are unlikely to convince everyone this time round.

But on Sunday morning, concerns were raised about the safety of a second reactor at the plant after operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said the cooling system of another reactor had failed.

Since Friday's earthquake, radioactive air and steam has been released from several reactors at both Fukushima No.1 and No.2 plants in an effort to relieve the huge amount of pressure building up inside. Sea water and boron is being pumped into the site to lower temperatures.

Tepco said four of its workers were injured in Saturday's explosion, but that their injuries were not life-threatening. The Japanese government doubled the size of the evacuation zone around No.1 plant to 20km (12.4 miles) after the blast.

Reuters news agency quotes a Japanese nuclear safety agency official as saying that tests indicate that at least nine people have been exposed to radiation from the plant, and local authority estimates suggest this figure could rise as high as 160.

The government has urged local people to remain calm and is preparing to distribute iodine to anyone affected.

The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a statement: "In the 20-kilometre radius around Fukushima Daiichi (No.1), an estimated 170,000 people have been evacuated.

"In the 10-kilometre radius around Fukushima Daini (No.2) an estimated 30,000 people have been evacuated. Full evacuation measures have not been completed."

The Director General of the IAEA explains how Japan's power plants have been affected in the aftermath of the quake

The tsunami that followed the 8.9-magnitude earthquake wreaked havoc along a huge stretch of on Japan's north-east coast, sweeping far inland and devastating a number of towns and villages. Powerful aftershocks are continuing to hit the region.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas in the coastal city of Sendai, in Miyagi prefecture, says the scenes of devastation there are astonishing - giant shipping containers have been swept inland and smashed against buildings, and fires are still burning close to the harbour.

Police said between 200 and 300 bodies were found in just one ward of the city.

The town of Rikuzentakada, Iwate prefecture, was reported as largely destroyed and almost completely submerged. NHK reported that soldiers had found up to 400 bodies there.

NHK reports that in the port of Minamisanriku, Miyagi, the authorities say that about 7,500 people were evacuated to 25 shelters after Friday's quake but they have been unable to contact the town's other 10,000 inhabitants.

A local official in the town of Futaba, Fukushima, said more than 90% of the houses in three coastal communities had been washed away by the tsunami.
Couple walk past overturned vehicles in Miyako (12 March) The scale of the devastation is immense

"The tsunami was unbelievably fast," said Koichi Takairin, a 34-year-old truck driver who was inside his four-ton rig when the wave hit Sendai. "Smaller cars were being swept around me. All I could do was sit in my truck."

Tens of thousands of troops backed by ships and helicopters have been deployed on rescue and relief missions. More than 215,000 people are said to be living in 1,350 temporary shelters in five prefectures.

International disaster relief teams are being sent to Japan, with the UN helping to co-ordinate the operation.

President Barack Obama has pledged US assistance. One US aircraft carrier that was already in Japan will help with rescue and relief efforts, and a second is on its way.

Japan's worst previous earthquake was of 8.3 magnitude and killed 143,000 people in Kanto in 1923. A magnitude 7.2 quake in Kobe killed 6,400 people in 1995.



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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Current situation

Rescuers are searching for survivors of a huge earthquake and tsunami that have devastated Japan's north-eastern coast, killing at least 1,000 people.

In one town alone - the port of Minamisanriku - 10,000 people were listed as unaccounted for, officials were reported as saying.

Across the region, TV footage showed people stranded on rooftops surrounded by debris-filled water.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said 50,000 troops were joining the rescue effort.

The government said that all military resources available, including personnel, vehicles, aircraft and vessels, had been mobilised for the rescue effort.

Mr Kan said 3,000 people had been rescued so far.

However, operations are being hampered by aftershocks, continuing tsunami warnings and damaged roads.

An explosion at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima has also prompted fears of a meltdown and people have been ordered to evacuate the area within a 20km (12-mile) radius of the plant.

Hundreds of people are missing, and is it feared that the death toll will rise significantly.

Before-and-after aerial images of coastal towns on Japanese television suggest that virtually entire communities along the coastline were washed away.

The 10m (33ft) tsunami swept up to 10km (6 miles) inland, destroying many towns and villages.

In Minamisanriku, in Miyagi prefecture, reports said the 10,000 people listed as unaccounted-for represented well over half the town's population of 17,000.

NHK World television said the water reached the fourth of a five-floor hospital building.

About a third of the city of Kesennuma, also in Miyagi, with a population of 74,000, was submerged, and the city was also hit by widespread fires.

In Iwate prefecture, Rikuzentakata, a coastal city of some 23,000 people, was almost completely destroyed as the tsunami reached as high as the third floor of the city hall. Some 300-400 bodies were found there.

The coastal area of Miyako and almost all of the town of Yamada, both in Iwate, were also submerged.

A municipal official of the town of Futaba in Fukushima prefecture said: ''More than 90% of the houses in three coastal communities have been washed away by tsunami. Looking from the fourth floor of the town hall, I see no houses standing.''

In one of the worst-hit areas of Fukushima prefecture, people buried under rubble could be heard calling out for help, the Kyodo news agency reported.

Four trains running in a coastal area of Miyagi and Iwate prefectures are still unaccounted for.

In Ibaraki prefecture, north-east of Tokyo, many homes are still without power and there are queues at the few petrol stations that are open, says the BBC's Chris Hogg.

In other developments:

* There have been reports of more than 125 aftershocks, including a 6.8 magnitude quake
* The number of partially or completely destroyed buildings has reached some 3,400
* Some 5.57 million households had lost power as of Saturday morning, while more than one million households have had their water supply cut off, the Kyodo news agency reported
* Fires have continued, with Sendai airport said to still be on fire and Kesennuma in Miyagi Prefecture experiencing three large-scale fires, Kyodo reported
* Two US aircraft carriers are on their way to the disaster zone - the USS George Washington, which is based near Tokyo, and the USS Ronald Reagan, which was on its way to South Korea
* The welfare ministry said 181 welfare facilities, including nursing homes, were damaged
* More than 200,000 people are in emergency shelters. More than 50 countries and territories have offered assistance

The earthquake struck on Friday afternoon off Honshu island, about 400km (250 miles) north-east of Tokyo.

It was nearly 8,000 times stronger than last month's quake in New Zealand that devastated the city of Christchurch, scientists said.



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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
U.S. troops, USS Ronald Reagan arrive in Japan
By the CNN Wire Staff

other agencies in Japan also reported in this article

(CNN) -- The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan arrived off the coast of Japan Sunday to support Japanese forces in disaster relief operations, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement.

More U.S. aid -- in the form of equipment, staffers and search-and-rescue teams -- was expected to arrive Sunday to address the widespread devastation caused by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami.

Near Honshu, Japan, the USS Ronald Reagan will support the Japan Self-Defense Force by providing refueling operations for Japanese helicopters and transporting the island country's troops to disaster areas, according to the Pentagon statement.

Accompanying the Reagan are the guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville and the destroyer USS Preble.

The United States is part of a growing international effort offering relief to Japan, whose government said it had received interest from 49 countries and the European Union.

In addressing a potential crisis, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent two experts in boiling-water nuclear reactors to Japan as crews there flooded the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant with sea water in hopes of preventing a meltdown of its core Saturday.

A concrete building surrounding the reactor experienced an explosion caused by a failed pump system Saturday, but the reactor wasn't damaged, Japanese officials said.

"We have some of the most expert people in this field in the world working for the NRC and we stand ready to assist in any way possible," NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said in a statement.

In Shiroishi, a town near the area hardest hit by the quake, two SH-60 helicopters from U.S. Naval Air Facility Atsugi delivered 1,500 pounds of rice and bread donated by people in Ebina, southeast of Tokyo, the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement Saturday. The fleet is headquartered in Yokosuka, just outside Tokyo.

Two destroyers, the USS McCampbell and USS Curtis Wilbur, were off Japan's Boso Peninsula, which shelters Tokyo Bay, and were preparing to assist Japanese authorities with at-sea rescue and recovery operations, the 7th Fleet said.

An additional destroyer, the USS Mustin, will depart Yokosuka on Sunday. Eight other U.S. ships were en route to Japan from various locations, set to arrive Sunday or later in the week, according to the 7th Fleet. One, the USS Tortuga, departed Japan on Saturday night to pick up two helicopters in South Korea and would return in about two days.

Three ships composing the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group also are among the eight ships, the military said.

Meanwhile, the III Marine Expeditionary Force, based on the island of Okinawa, south of Japan, said it was "prepositioning forces and supplies in support of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations."

The force was sending staffers, a cargo aircraft and transport helicopters to the mainland, it said in a written statement. Additional aircraft and supplies will be sent in the next few days.

The military assistance operation is known as Operation Tomodachi, or "friendship," the statement said. The name was chosen by the Japanese.

U.S. Forces Japan, based at Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, is the lead military command for coordinating humanitarian assistance, the military said. Shortly after the quake struck, the air base was designated as an alternate airfield for flights that could not land at Tokyo's Narita Airport, and it received a handful of commercial flights.

A total of 570 passengers and 29 crew members were taken to the Taiyo Community Center, where they received food, water, lodging and bedding overnight, the air base said in a statement. The base itself converted a facility into a shelter for another 600 people.

"We have units from all of our services, with a multitude of capabilities, from medical to communications to civil engineering, poised and ready to support where needed," John Roos, U.S. ambassador to Japan, told reporters Saturday. "The bottom line: Our military is working closely with their Japanese counterparts to support where requested and needed."

The U.S. Agency for International Development said it was deploying two urban search-and-rescue teams, one from Fairfax County, Virginia, and the second from Los Angeles County. The Virginia team departed Washington on Saturday and was stopping in Los Angeles to pick up the second team.

Both teams -- composed of 150 people and 12 canines trained to find survivors -- are set to arrive Monday morning in Misawa, Japan, where they will "immediately begin the search for live victims" alongside Japanese and other international teams, USAID said.

Journalists, including two CNN staffers, are traveling with the teams. Much of the teams' gear was shipped ahead. The kits include sophisticated detection equipment such as cameras and listening devices, as well as jackhammers and giant saws for use in freeing trapped people. The Virginia team is also bringing swift-water rescue specialists and four inflatable boats.

The dogs, meanwhile, are traveling in seats alongside their handlers on the 767. They include Cadillac, a Labrador who worked with Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Jasmine Segura to find victims after the earthquake in Haiti last year. Others have worked in Turkey and elsewhere.

A USAID Disaster Assistance Response team is already in Japan, the agency said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and its partner agencies are on standby in case their assistance is needed, the agency said Friday.

California Gov. Jerry Brown said in a news release that he has "directed California's Emergency Management Agency to make state resources available to the Japanese government."

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig even promised assistance from the major league. Citing "our shared love of baseball for more than a century," Selig said in a statement that Japan is "a particularly special place to us" and that the league will provide aid in the coming days and weeks.

The American Red Cross is communicating with the Japanese Red Cross Society and its global partners, according to a statement from the agency. So far, the American Red Cross has not received any requests for blood.

The organization is encouraging people with loved ones in Japan to use the Red Cross "Safe and Well" website, an online tool that helps families connect during natural disasters and emergencies.

On Friday, President Barack Obama pledged to help the island country. "I offer our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed," he said. "Today's events remind us how fragile life can be."

Roos said that as of Saturday, there had been no confirmed reports of U.S. citizens killed or seriously injured in Japan.

"We know that many people are worried about the welfare of their friends and families who are here in Japan," he said. "We understand also that some telephone landlines have been interrupted. Of course, we are recommending that people continue to contact loved ones here in Japan by e-mail, text, SMS message or social media."

On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered "immediate disaster relief assistance" and added the United States is working closely with the Japanese government. Roos echoed those comments Saturday.

The State Department on Friday issued an alert against nonessential travel to Japan.

The alert also said strong aftershocks are likely "for weeks" and included instructions for what to do if caught in an earthquake or aftershock.

Earlier, American Airlines told CNN that it would resume flights into Japan on Saturday. Both American and Delta Airlines canceled flights to Tokyo on Friday. It was unclear if flights to other Japanese airports also were affected. In addition, Delta, United and Continental airlines announced they were waiving change fees for people whose travel plans involving Japan were affected by the disaster.

At the State Department, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs said a 24-hour consular task force has been set up to help Americans affected by the earthquake.

Americans in Japan who need help, or people seeking information about a loved one in Japan, can send an e-mail to japanemergencyusc@state.gov, Jacobs said. Americans outside Japan but in tsunami-affected areas who need help, or people seeking information about an American in affected areas outside Japan, can e-mail pacifictsunamiusc@state.gov, she said.

A telephone information line also has been set up at 1-888-407-4747, said Jacobs, who encouraged people to use the e-mail options if possible. When seeking information about Americans in Japan or other affected areas, Jacobs said, people should provide the full name, birth date and location of the person, as well as any pre-existing medical conditions, and if they are elderly or a child.


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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Japan earthquake: Production halted at factories

Mark Gregory reports on the potential cost of the cost of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami

Production has been halted at many factories in Japan, as companies assess the damage of the earthquake and tsunami on the north-east coast.

Sony, Toyota, Nissan and Honda are among firms to have closed plants.

Economists say the earthquake and tsunami could have a "profound" impact on Japan's economy - the world's third largest - although it is too early to make any judgements.

But they say the damage is unlikely to be as bad as the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

Macqarie Economics Research said that the epicentre of the latest earthquake was well offshore, while in 1995 it was very close to the city of Kobe.

It also suggested that the area most affected by this disaster was less important economically than Kobe, which was one of Japan's most important ports.

Capital Economics said that Japan was now "much better prepared for this kind of disaster than it was in 1995".

The Kobe earthquake left more than 6,400 people dead, about 300,000 homeless, and caused damage estimated at 10 trillion yen ($100bn at the time).

'Bad timing'

The earthquake, which measured 8.9 on the Richter scale, and the 10-metre high tsunami, has shut down ports, power plants and refineries.

A major explosion hit a petrochemical plant in Sendai, while further south a huge fire swept an oil refinery in Ichihara city, Chiba prefecture.

The company does not know how long it will take to restart operations. It depends on the extent of the damage that has been caused. We are still awaiting an update on what kind of devastation has taken place”

Capital Economics said that the timing of the current disaster "could not have been much worse" for the Japanese economy, which contracted at the end of last year.

It said a large part of the rebuilding costs would have be to paid for by the government, adding to its already large debt problem.

Its government debt is now three times the size of its GDP (economic output), and twice the level it was in 1995.

But Capital Economics added that Japan was better prepared than most countries for such disasters.

It also pointed out that although economic activity usually falls following major incidents, subsequent reconstruction work had in other cases boosted demand and helped the economy to bounce bank.

It said it expected the scale to be similar to the Niigata quake in 2004, which cost $30bn.

GDP fell by 0.4% afterwards, but then rose by nearly 1% in the following six months.

David Cohen, a Singapore-based analyst at regional economic commentators Action Economics, agreed.

"In the short term, the damage could even knock off almost 1% of the country's GDP," he said.

"Longer-term though, it will balance out, through the rebuilding exercise which will be positive for growth will all the construction taking place. It could turn positive in about 12 months."

There will also be concerns about damage to productive capacity, Mr Cohen said, and industrial production may suffer as a consequence of the damage caused.

Electronics giant Sony has six factories - four in Miyagi and two in Fukushima - in the north-east of the country, the region which suffered the brunt of the quake.

"Production in all factories has been halted for now," said Sue Tanaka, of the firm's communications department.

"The company does not know how long it will take to restart operations. It depends on the extent of the damage that has been caused. We are still awaiting an update on what kind of devastation has taken place."

The factories mainly produce components for use in things like Blu-ray players, and all employees have been safely evacuated.

Toyota Motors said production had been halted at three plants, and also said that there had been damage to some dealerships, and that they were currently checking what the situation was with their suppliers.

Nissan has closed four factories, and said two workers had been injured, while Honda has stopped production at two plants and said that one employee had been killed and about 30 injured.

Further afield an oil refinery near Tokyo caught fire, causing a massive blaze.

And activity at the major port in the nearby city of Yokohama has been disrupted by the earthquake, suffering a loss of power at its terminal.

"At the moment they are trying to get power back but it's unlikely to happen today," said Boon Lee Lur of shipping company Neptune Orient Lines.

The city of Sendai in the north of Japan, which was the worst hit by the disaster, saw fires break out and its port overrun by the tsunami.

The cost of clearing up the damage done could run into the billions, according to HSBC Private Bank's chief Asia strategist, Arjuna Mahendaran, and that is likely to add further to the Japanese government's ballooning debts.

But rating agency Moody's was more upbeat about Japan's capacity to deal with the quake.

"In a big economy like Japan, the impact of a natural disaster can be absorbed economically by the government and private insurance, so there will be no impact on government's finances and therefore Japan's sovereign rating," it said.



1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Reports: 9,500 Missing in Japan Coastal Town

As emergency responders made their way today into the hardest-hit coastal villages of Japan, the country's Kyodo News Agency reports that 9,500 people are unaccounted for in Minamisanriku -- roughly half the town's population.

The town, located along the Pacific Ocean on the northeast coast of Japan, has a population of 17,000 residents.

Japan Self-Defense Forces are trying to help local authorities find residents, Japanese public broadcasting station NHK reported. So far, they've only been able to confirm that about 7,500 residents were successfully evacuated to dozens of shelters after the massive earthquake and tsunami, NHK reported.

Evacuees sit at a shelter in the town of Minamisoma in Fukushima Prefecture on Saturday, a day after an 8.9 magnitude quake and tsunami devastated the region. Click through for more images from the disaster.

Even before rescuers reached the hardest-hit areas, NHK reported stories of devastation from the towns and villages along Japan's northeastern coast affected by the quake and its aftershocks.

In Sendai, the largest nearby city, police said between 200 and 300 bodies were found along the coast. Many more are believed to have been buried in the rubble or washed out with the waves.

Military helicopters grabbed survivors from rooftops and streets were littered with remnants of the destruction. The U.S. agreed to send helicopters from Okinawa to assist rescue efforts.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said more than 3,000 people have been rescued, Kyodo News Agency reported.

"We'd first like to focus on saving lives and secondly the comfort of the evacuees," Kan said. "There will be many resources that will be needed for this evacuation process."



1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Hard-hit town recalls tsunami: 'I couldn't watch anymore"
From Paula Han{censored}s, CNN

Minami Sanriku, Japan (CNN) -- As people in Japan's capital tried to return to normalcy on Sunday, their neighbors to the north were aghast at the damage caused by a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami, with many of them anxious to learn the fate of still-missing loved ones.

In Minami Sanriku, a town in northeastern Japan, a family photo album lay on the sodden ground, showing a beaming man holding a newborn baby -- happiness out of place amid the devastation and carnage left by a tsunami that occurred just after a massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake.

it's been estimated that some 9,500 people -- half the town's population -- may be unaccounted for.

Only a handful of buildings were left standing, with the rest a mangled mess of rubble. A boat sat on the edge of town, carried more than two miles inland by the tsunami.

When the tsunami warning sounded Friday, "Most people ran away," said Choushin Takahaski, who was working in a local government office near the water. "Some had to leave the elderly or disabled behind on the second floor. I think a lot of those left behind probably died."

As the wave hit, he said he felt as if it was happening in a dream.

"I saw the bottom of the sea when the tidal wave withdrew and houses and people were being washed out," another resident said. "I couldn't watch anymore.

Survivors were still being pulled out of the rubble -- 42 of them Sunday morning alone, according to local media. Ambulances sped them away from the town. The elderly were carried from a hospital on the backs of residents, awaiting helicopter evacuations.

But search and rescue efforts were frequently disturbed by tsunami alerts prompted by ongoing aftershocks.

When the alarm sounded, police abandoned their cars, rescue workers blew whistles and people rushed to high ground. "It's your life!" shouted one man. "Run!" It was a false alarm, but such warnings are taken seriously in the wake of the disaster.

In the city of Sendai, south of Minami Sanriku, rescuers were still finding survivors in the Futaki neighborhood. But increasingly, those being found are the dead, people who drowned in their cars when the wall of water slammed into the town.

One man said his mother and uncle remain missing. They were at the family's home when the tsunami struck.

"Frightening beyond belief," the young man said. "I have no words."

Many areas of the town are simply gone -- mud and boards littering an area where a row of homes used to stand; a vehicle upside-down among tree branches. A school, which had 450 people inside when the tsunami hit, stood with its doors blown open and a jumble of furniture -- plus a truck -- in its hallways. Some teachers and students were able to escape the building, but officials said others did not.

Sendai residents said the water reached the treetops as it swept into the town. Cars were tossed like toys, windows blasted out and homes crushed or swept away completely.

"As I was trying to evacuate, the tsunami was already in front of me," another young man said. "I tried to drive, but I ended up running instead."

Some four-wheel-drive vehicles were seen on Sendai roads. Military choppers hovered overhead. Among those yet to be rescued Sunday were those trapped in a hospital, officials said.

"I've been watching TV, but it looks much worse when I actually see it in person," said a third young man. "I grew up in the house that was not close to the ocean. I didn't think it would be this bad, but I'm from the west side and I guess some people could not imagine the horror of the tsunami and couldn't evacuate in time."

Some residents of Sendai returned to their homes Sunday, salvaging what they could. Others stood in long lines for limited fuel and, especially, for food and water. The line at one food and water distribution center was several blocks long.

Melissa Heng said she has many colleagues who are unable to reach friends and family living elsewhere in Miyagi prefecture, as phone service has been spotty. That, she said, is "adding to the emotional toll."

But "for a city that's seen so much tragedy in the last few days, the people seem very calm," she said. Many families are focusing on the cleanup process, she said, and there is a sense that "we're all in this together."

She said at a Sendai shelter, food was distributed on Saturday, but on Sunday the only thing available was some donated fruit.

"For two days we had no electricity, water or gas," said Simon Garcia, who is studying in Sendai and in a dorm in the mountains above the town, an area less affected by the tsunami. He said he and others were unaware of the extent of the damage until power was restored -- on a limited basis -- and they could watch television.

People were waiting two hours to get into the supermarket, he said, and once inside, there is very little left and limits on how much customers can buy. He said people in the dorms have been asked to avoid going into the central part of the city.

Meanwhile, to the south, a semblance of normalcy was returning in Tokyo although unease -- and long lines for food and fuel -- persisted. Aftershocks continued into Sunday, rattling nerves and stoking fears of another large quake.

"People are wondering, could there be an aftershock that's greater than the original earthquake?" said CNN's Gary Tuchman, who was driving to Sendai. "Each time you feel it, there's an element of fear."

"I've been awake about 35 hours," Ryan McDonald, who lives in Fukushima, told CNN on Saturday. "That's because every time I lie down to go to sleep or rest, there's a big aftershock ... there's no food and then there's limited water and I can't flush the toilets."

"The news is telling us that there is a 70% change of another 7.0 or greater earthquake within three days," said CNN iReporter Gabriel Rodriguez, who lives on the U.S.' Negishi Navy housing base in Yokohama, just south of Tokyo.

Many people are attempting to stock up on food and water, he said. Fuel was being rationed to 10 gallons per customer because of delivery delays, he said, and long lines are also seen for fuel off base.

"There are a lot of the staples that are gone and, of course, the meat," said iReporter June Kathryn Jones, who is in Yokosuka while her husband is on the USS John McCain -- and unable to get on the Yokosuka Naval Base since he can't sign her in. "I've never seen anything like that. A lot of the items that don't need to be refrigerated are available, but that might be pretty comical, for myself being that I can't read Japanese."

The capital was slowly returning to normal, said iReporter David Powell, but public areas were largely deserted. He sent a photo of a policeman patrolling "a common meeting place 'Hachiko' outside Shibuya Station, that is typically packed shoulder to shoulder with people but is relatively empty."

Powell also snapped photos of empty aisles at a department store. Tokyo residents reported that stores were sold out of items like batteries and flashlights, and baked goods, dairy products and other food was hard to find.

"The supermarkets and convenience stores in and around Tokyo are still bare," James Stewart, who lives in the Kanto area of the city, wrote in an e-mail to CNN, attaching photos of supermarket shelves stripped clean of items. "Every time a delivery of food arrives, it's gone within an hour ... I've been to two supermarkets already and there is nothing to be bought. Liquor stores have been cleaned out, too."'

However, other services were continuing. Canadian Aaron Lace, who lives in central Tokyo, told CNN on Saturday he received a package in the mail.

Because of continuing concerns regarding a handful of nuclear reactors, rolling blackouts were announced, he said, and will begin tomorrow in many satellite towns around central Tokyo. "Most will be out of power/internet for around three hours, twice a day," he said. "Mobile phone service seems to be stable again."

Still, many of those in Tokyo and elsewhere realize that their inconveniences pale next to the dire situation faced in Sendai and other areas decimated by the quake and tsunami.

"People who lost their homes, or the people who are still needing help -- they are the ones who need help," Yasue Schumaker, a Sendai native who now lives in Hawaii but was visiting her mother in a Sendai hospital when the quake struck, said Saturday.

"We don't have any electric, water, gas, and the city just announced it could take 30 days to get gas set up for everybody," she said, her voice quavering. "But we definitely need water and food, but please help the people who lost their homes and (are) still ... on top of the building asking for help."

Elsewhere, Japanese-Americans were also concerned about their relatives, saying it's hard to contact them because of spotty phone service.

"I don't know .. if they're safe or not," said Fumi Meyer in New Jersey, who has been attempting to reach her cousin. "I have no idea. Just pray and wait, that's all we can do."

Some have been able to get e-mails to and from their loved ones. But "they still haven't e-mailed back yet," said Yuki Dodson, who is trying to reach her 86-year-old mother and other friends. "I'm really worried. Still waiting."

Video at this link http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/13/japan.quake.scene/index.html?hpt=T1&iref=BN1


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Who is helping?
Doctors, aid workers get to work in Japan

(CNN) -- A massive emergency response operation is under way in northern Japan, with world governments and international aid groups coming together to bring relief to the beleaguered island nation.

According to Japan's Foreign Affairs Ministry, 91 countries and regions and 6 international organizations have extended offers of assistance.

The Japanese government has received 11 urban search and rescue teams, the group said in a situation report, including teams from the United States, South Korea, Australia, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, China, Hungary, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

Japan's own search and rescue team was in New Zealand, assisting with recovery from the recent Christchurch earthquake, when the quake and tsunami struck Japan on Friday.

Here is a sampling of relief efforts under way:


United States


Ten U.S. helicopters flew missions Monday finding people in need of help and delivering water, food and blankets, Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan said. Additional helicopters conducted surveys of at-sea debris as well as search-and-rescue operations along the coast, Lapan said.

Eight U.S. Navy ships are now at work off the Japanese coast, with five more on the way in coming days and weeks, Lapan said.

Some military personnel on the USS Ronald Reagan off the East Coast of Honchu set off alarms indicating radiation and were decontaminated with soap and water, according to Lapan. The ship was about 100 miles from the damaged Japanese nuclear reactors at the time and subsequently changed its position, he said.

Lapan said those who registered "very low levels" of radiation included flight crews on helicopters returning to the ship, as well as crew members who never left the ship. He was unable to say how many people had to be scrubbed down but added that they weren't wearing protective gear and that none had been given radiation-blocking potassium iodide in response.

Two search-and-rescue teams from the United States arrived in the hard-hit coastal city of Ofunato, which was severely damaged in the quake. It took their convoy six hours to travel from Misawa Air Base on Monday.

Nearly 150 people and 12 dogs trained to detect live victims arrived in Japan late Sunday, according to Los Angeles Fire Department Inspector Don Kunitomi. Hailing from California and Fairfax County, Virginia, the teams are the only two in the United States qualified to respond to disasters on such a scale, Kunitomi said.

"There are a lot hazards that have never been experienced by a search-and-rescue team," Kunitomi said. "There's this radiation factor. We do have radiation equipment ... but no one has ever really experienced this."

"It looks like it'll be part Katrina because of the flooding and part New Zealand because of the earthquake," he continued, referring to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and last month's earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The teams traveled in a convoy of two buses, several flatbed trailers and half a dozen utility vehicles.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is coordinating the overall American response. The United States is also sending experts from the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to offer technical assistance to the Japanese government.

On Sunday, the USS Ronald Reagan started delivering aid in the coastal regions of Japan's Miyagi Prefecture.

Crew members, in conjunction with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces, conducted 20 sorties delivering aid pallets. Eight U.S. and Japanese helicopters were used to distribute the pallets, according to Sgt. Maj. Stephen Valley of U.S. Forces Japan.




A 15-member Chinese search and rescue team has begun work in Ofunato, according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency. The group brought 4 tons of material and equipment and is expected to work in the area for up to 10 days, the agency reported.

The gesture comes just six months after the two countries sparred in a territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Tokyo held a Chinese trawler captain after his fishing boat collided with Japanese coast guard ships near the islands in September.

There also remains a great deal of tension between China and Japan, left over from Japan's invasion and occupation of part of China from 1931 to 1945. The wartime atrocities still fuel widespread distrust of Japan by many Chinese.

However, "China is also a country prone to earthquake disasters, and we fully empathize with how they feel now," Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Monday.

China has been hit with two devastating quakes in the past three years. And it is conducting domestic quake rescue efforts in southwestern Yunnan province after a deadly 5.8-magnitude quake Thursday.


United Kingdom


A British team comprising 63 fire service search-and-rescue specialists, two dogs and a medical support team is in Japan, the U.K. foreign office said. The group has 11 metric tons of rescue equipment, including heavy lifting and cutting equipment to extract people trapped in debris, the government said.


New Zealand


New Zealand has sent a rescue team of 10 from Christchurch to the hard-hit Japanese coastal city of Sendai. Christchurch is cleaning up from its own earthquake on February 21 that killed 123 people.




A Mexican rescue squad made up of eight search and rescue specialists, five dogs, two structure assessment specialists, members of the Mexican Red Cross and personnel from the National Autonomous University of Mexico is in Sendai, the Mexican Foreign Affairs Ministry said Monday.


International Groups


The International Atomic Energy Agency's Incident and Emergency Centre has offered technical assistance to Japan in the wake of an explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The government has evacuated more than 200,000 residents from homes close to the plant and tested 160 people for radiation exposure, authorities said Sunday.

In addition to the response from world governments, humanitarian assistance groups have sent teams to hard-hit areas across Japan.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has 62 teams in-country providing assistance, according to a United Nations situation report.

A Red Cross hospital in the city of Ishinomaki, which was engulfed by the tsunami, is the primary medical facility providing health care services in the area, according to the International Red Cross' Patrick Fuller. He says the focus is very much on search and rescue at the moment, adding that the group is particularly concerned about Japan's large population of elderly people who are vulnerable to hypothermia.

The World Health Organization has alerted its network of health experts who specialize in nuclear-related disasters. The Radiation Emergency Medical Preparedness and Assistance Network is now on standby, ready to assist if requested by Japanese authorities. The network is made of representatives from more than 40 institutions with expertise in radiation emergency medicine, public heath interventions and long-term followup.

Mercy Corps International teamed with Peace Winds Japan to rush aid to affected regions. On Sunday, Peace Winds conducted assessments in two northeastern cities, Ishimaki and Kesennuma, according to a statement on Mercy Corps' website. On Monday, the group will use helicopters to bring in 30 family-sized tents, plus materials to construct a 100-person balloon shelter. Peace Winds has expert responders on their way to remote areas of northern Japan, where they plan to distribute large emergency tents, water, food and blankets, according to Mercy Corps' website.

The two groups are working to deliver other essential items that are in short supply.

Medecins sans Frontieres has a 10-member team working in Miyagi Prefecture, assisting "in the massive government-led relief effort."

"On Sunday, we conducted mobile clinics and assessments in two evacuation centers," team coordinator Mikiko Dotsu said in a news release. "It appears that medical needs are increasing in evacuation centers."

Additional personnel will join the group Monday, which will then split in two to cover more ground. The teams will begin working their way into more remote areas, focusing particularly on the needs of vulnerable populations like elderly people and young children.

Stephen McDonald of Save the Children said Sunday that his group had multiple teams in the country, reaching out to families left homeless. There are water shortages at evacuation centers, creating hygiene challenges, he said.




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