March 16 - 22 2011
T Japan in crisis For breaking news of the unfolding disaster and information on British expats and travellers telegraph.co.uk/japan
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sleeping in makeshift shelters in areas that were still cut off.
The British-based charity Shelterbox, which normally distributes packages containing tents and other vital supplies in the Third World, was among those trying to reach them.
Its operations director, John Leach, said: “Japan is a very rich nation, but the sheer volume of people displaced is what will cause a problem.
“We are fairly certain that tents will be needed in the north. In this cold weather, without access to shelter, humans who are exposed to the elements really start to suffer, especially if they are wet.”
He added that the shortage of drinking water in areas swamped by sludge could cause health problems.
“The worry for somewhere like Japan, with pretty high levels of sanitation, is that most people will have very low levels of immunity to waterborne diseases,” he said.
A spokesman for Save the Children added: “Our team has been in Asahi today, three hours from Tokyo. It’s a town that has hardly had any media coverage and yet 19,000 households have been affected. That gives you an idea of the scale of this.”
The British Red Cross was among the charities to have set up disaster relief appeals. Even the southern Afghan city of Kandahar pledged £30,000 in aid to Japan.
The final death toll from the disaster is unlikely to be known for weeks. Police in the Miyagi prefecture, which includes the devastated port of Sendai, said 10,000 lives were likely to have been lost there alone. The Foreign Office said it had received 3,200 calls from Britons who had been unable to contact relations in Japan.
As rescue teams from more than 70 countries helped sift through the rubble of collapsed buildings and tried to reach those still stranded, there were warnings that the country was in danger of more earthquakes. Japan’s meteorological agency said on Sunday there was a 70 per cent chance of a magnitude7.0 tremor hitting the region in the next few days — significantly smaller than last Friday’s earthquake but bigger than any of the scores of aftershocks over the weekend.
The risk of a nuclear accident also remained as experts continued to work on preventing three reactors at the ageing Fukushima atomic plant from overheating.
The crisis at the plant – where the outer shell of the building that housed reactor No1 exploded last Saturday – was rated as a four out of seven on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, compared with a five for the Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979 and seven for the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.
The Japanese government admitted that there was a risk of a second explosion at the Fukushima site, but insisted that there was no major health risk, despite 160 people being exposed to radiation at the plant over the weekend, of whom 22 suffered contamination.
A state of emergency was also declared at the Onagawa nuclear power plant and there were also reports of a problem with the cooling system at the Tokai No2 reactor about 80 miles from Tokyo. ÞTo donate to the Red Cross tsunami appeal go to www. redcross.org.uk. To donate to Shelterbox visit www. shelterbox.org.
Total devastation: above, rescue workers search for victims in Noda village, and (left) underneath an upturned house in Natori City. Below, a boat washed ashore by the force of the waves crushes a home near Sendai. Bottom, before and after satellite images show how an area of Sendai was stripped bare by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami
SCIENTISTS and technicians have been battling to control two overheating reactors at the 40-year-old Fukushima Daiichi facility after cooling systems were knocked out by the earthquake.
Just after Prime Minister Naoto Kan went on television to tell the nation that the plant was in an “alarming” state, its No3 reactor erupted in a resounding blast that was felt 25 miles away.
The explosion injured six workers and four soldiers, and sent clouds of white smoke billowing into the sky.
Japan’s government sought to play down fears of a dangerous radiation leak, saying the reactor’s inner containment vessel, which holds the nuclear fuel rods, was still intact following the blast, caused by a hydrogen build up.
A similar, previous explosion blew apart the building
The explosion at Fukushima nuclear plant on Monday surrounding the plant’s No1 reactor last Saturday.
A total of 22 people were confirmed to have suffered radiation contamination following that blast, and up to 190 may have been exposed.
Sea water is being dumped into both the affected reactors in a desperate attempt to cool them amid fears of a possible meltdown. If that happens they could release radioactive material into the air.
The nuclear safety agency rated the Fukushima incident as a 4 on the 1 to 7 International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale. Chernobyl was a 7.
Following the latest explosion, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said: “The soundness of the reactor container has been maintained.”
But nuclear experts said it was probably the first time in the industry’s 57-year history that sea water had been used in this way, a sign of how close Japan may be to a major accident.
Some 210,000 people living near the battered nuclear reactors have been evacuated. But 746 elderly people, including patients and care workers at three hospitals and nursing homes, are known to have remained within a 12-mile exclusion zone imposed by the government.
By Gordon Rayner FEARS that Japan could be tipped back into recession by the cost of the tsunami triggered concerns on Sunday about the economic impact of the disaster on the rest of the world. Within minutes of opening early on Monday, the Nikkei shares index had dropped more than five per cent, while Japan’s central bank injected a record seven trillion yen (£51billion) into the economy to provide liquidity.
Japan accounts for more than seven per cent of the world economy, meaning that any major disruptions to its output are felt all over the planet.
Economists warned that up to two per cent could be wiped off the value of UK
stocks and shares, which would equate to a £30 billion drop in the value of the FTSE 100 index. British insurance firms which do business in Japan are likely to suffer the biggest losses.
Prof Douglas McWilliams, the founder of the Centre for Economic and Business Research, said: “In this country, insurers are the ones in the direct firing line, because a proportion of the cost of the disaster, which is likely to be in the fifties of billions, will come through the UK.” With a large percentage of Japan’s factories temporarily shut down because of earthquake and tsunami damage, other British firms doing business in Japan are likely to suffer a knock-on effect.
Japan was already trying to overcome the world’s biggest deficit before the tsunami devastated the north of the country last Friday. It had slipped to third, behind China, in the list of the world’s biggest economies. Ministers have suggested that taxes might have to be raised to pay for the rebuilding programme.
Some of Japan’s leading manufacturers, such as Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Sony and Panasonic were forced to halt production. Many industries are suffering from a shortage of electricity caused by the shutting down of nuclear power plants and damage to oil refineries and gas facilities, some of which caught fire after the earthquake.
By David Barrett BRITISH families were among thousands across the world who this week posted desperate pleas on websites for information about loved ones caught in the Japanese earthquake.
As the country’s communications network suffered almost complete collapse in the areas worst hit by last Friday’s tsunami, friends and family of the missing searched desperately on the internet for even the smallest crumbs of comfort.
Google has created a special “person finder” page, originally launched last year after the Haiti earthquake, which gathers messages about the missing, and matches them with information emerging from Japan.
At the weekend, there were more than 60,000 entries on the database, the total rising by the hour. The Red Cross had set up a similar site.
The family of Brian Hickebottom, a British teacher, were desperate for news of the 34 year-old, his infant daughter and Japanese wife, who live in the city of Tagajo, about seven miles from Sendai, among the areas worst affected by the disaster.
Mr Hickebottom, from Birmingham, has lived in Japan for three years and teaches English in schools. His sister, Emma, 28, said: “We are all very worried. Mum and dad were due to visit Brian in two weeks’ time because they haven’t yet met their granddaughter.”
Mr Hickebottom’s wife,
Sanae, gave birth to their first child, Erin, six months ago. His sister posted an appeal for information on her brother’s whereabouts on the Google page.
“We have tried emailing, phoning and texting to see if the family are all OK, but we’ve heard nothing yet,” she said.
Some of those feared missing managed to pass messages to their family on the internet as communications were haltingly restored.
Shirley Joy, from Hull, said she had traced her son Christopher Andrews, 34, who is teaching in the city of Mito.
“We had a brief message on Facebook saying he was OK. He had 85 missed calls on his phone asking if he was all right,” she said.