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 Japan's death toll climbs to nearly 7,000

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PostSubject: Japan's death toll climbs to nearly 7,000   Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:06 pm

Tokyo (CNN) -- Japan documented more deaths Friday as Prime
Minister Naoto Kan sought to reassure a nation reeling from disaster,
saying that he is committed to taking firm control of a "grave"
situation. Japanese paused at the one-week mark following the
monster earthquake and ensuing tsunami as the death toll continued its
steady climb to 6,911, the National Police Agency reported. Another
10,316 people are missing. Kan said the disaster has been a "great test for all of the people of Japan," but he was confident of the resolve of his people. Amid
a raised crisis level at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant from a 4
to 5 -- putting it on par with the 1979 incident at Pennsylvania's Three
Mile Island -- Kan told his compatriots to bury their pessimism.

Japan PM urges solidarity

Getting food to people in Japan

Man's quest to support survivors

Nuclear watchdog under fire over Japan

"With a tsunami and earthquake we don't
have any room to be pessimistic," he said. "We are going to create Japan
again from scratch. We should face this challenge together." Kan
acknowledged the situation at the Fukushima plant remains "very grave"
and said his government has disclosed all that it knows to both the
Japanese people and the international community. "The police,
fire department and self defense forces are all working together,
putting their lives on the line, in an attempt to resolve the
situation," he said. Search teams continued Friday to comb
through the rubble and residents of decimated towns sifted through
twisted metal and broken wood beams, looking for remnants of the lives
they lost. Rescuers planted red flags where they found dead bodies. "I
have no words to express my feelings. I lost my mind. We will have to
start from zero," Hidemitsu Ichikawa said, taking a break from shoveling
mud outside his home. In Miyagi Prefecture, officials observed a moment of silence Friday to mark the one-week anniversary of the quake. Schools had become impromptu morgues, with names of the dead posted on the doors, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported. Long lines snaked around supermarkets as survivors stocked up on supplies. In
the hardest-hit parts of the country, thousands of people, many of them
frail and elderly, settled into shelters not knowing when they might be
able to leave. Japanese media have reported difficult living conditions, including kerosene shortages that make it hard to heat the shelters. Some 380,000 people are staying at 2,200 facilities, Kyodo News reported. "With
all possible measures I'm determined, as part of the government, to
improve their living conditions as much as possible," Chief Cabinet
Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters Friday. NHK reported that 25 of the nearly 10,000 evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture have died in shelters. Twenty
of them were elderly people forced to evacuate from nursing homes and a
hospital after problems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Several died as
they rode without adequate medical care on a bus on the way to the high
school shelter, Fukushima Prefecture government officials said.

CNN reporter reflects on tsunami damage

Attempting to cool Japan nuclear reactor

Returning to the devastation

Japan: Survivors struggle to keep warm


  • Japan

  • Earthquakes

  • Nuclear Energy

  • Disaster Relief

Volunteers tried to care for hundreds of
patients in the school's unheated athletic building. They sent out radio
messages asking people to bring in any fuel they could spare, Koyo High
School principal Masaaki Tashiro said, choking up as he recounted the
struggle. "It was so far beyond anything we had ever experienced
that we were doing our very best, just trying to cope with what was in
front of us, he said. "People are exhausted from the earthquake, tsunami, and now the fear of radiation," he said. Japan's
nuclear safety agency described the situation at the earthquake-damaged
Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant Friday as a "Level 5" incident , a
rating based on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale,
with 1 being least and 7 being most severe. Workers resumed
efforts to douse a spent fuel pond outside a nuclear reactor at the
Daiichi plant Friday, with its owner saying that earlier attempts had
been "somewhat effective" in addressing radiation concerns. Conditions
at the plant itself remain dangerous. Radiation levels Thursday hit 20
millisieverts per hour at an annex building where workers have been
trying to re-establish electrical power, "the highest registered (at
that building) so far," a Tokyo Electric official told reporters. By comparison, the typical resident of a developed country is naturally exposed to 3 millisieverts per year. The
top priority for officials is the nuclear facility's No. 3 reactor --
the sole damaged unit that contains plutonium along with the uranium in
its fuel rods, Edano said. On Thursday, helicopters, fire trucks
and police water cannons dumped or shot water on that unit, aiming to
cool down the reactor's spent fuel pool. Experts believe that vapors
rising from that pool, which has at least partially exposed fuel rods,
may be releasing radiation into the atmosphere. Significant
amounts of radiation have been released since the earthquake hit on
March 11, followed by a tsunami that swept away diesel generators needed
to keep water pumping over the fuel rods. The disasters spurred several
hydrogen explosions at the nuclear plant. But Japanese government spokesman Noriyuki Shikata tried to allay fears of an imminent meltdown. "We have not seen a major breach of containment" at any of the plant's troubled nuclear reactors, he said Thursday. A
meltdown occurs when nuclear fuel rods cannot be cooled and the nuclear
core melts. In the worst-case scenario, the fuel can rupture the
containment unit spilling out radioactivity through the air and water.
That, public health officials say, can cause both immediate and
long-term health problems, including radiation poisoning and cancer. The
government has ordered the evacuation of about 200,000 people living in
a 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) area around the plant, and told people
living between 20 kilometers and 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) from the
plant to remain indoors. "Evacuees, and that can be said of
myself as well, are feeling anxious since we are not getting the needed
information from the government in a timely manner," said Seiji Sato, a
spokesman for the government of Tamura City, about 20 kilometers from
the nuclear facility. One group of 21 people evacuated from a town near the plant made it to a shelter in Shinjo-shi, 300 kilometers (186 miles) away.
They told officials there that they drove as far away as possible, until they ran out of gas.
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