Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan says the 8.9 magnitude earthquake which ripped through Japan on Friday, generating a tsunami some say was 15 meters high, is the worst crisis Japan has faced since the end of World War 2. The effects have been devastated the north east section of the country and produced fears of a nuclear meltdown at a power station
Currently the confirmed death toll stands at 1,596 people according to Japanese broadcaster NHK, however that figure is likely to increase substantially over the coming days, with police warning that the death toll in the Miyagi region alone will exceed 10,000.
Large numbers of survivors are gathered in emergency shelters, and many are without fresh running water, heat and power.
The situation at the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant remained grave, a day after an explosion at the nuclear power plant. The cooling systems of two of the nuclear reactors at the power plant have failed following the earthquake, and there are serious fears that both are in danger of melting down, which could have potentially serious consequences for the environment.
On Saturday, a hydrogen explosion blew apart the building housing reactor 1, where technicians had been releasing radioactive steam as part of their attempts to cool the reactor.
The Japanese government says it is likely that the two reactors have already suffered at least a partial meltdown, but since the explosion took place on Saturday there has been no confirmation over the extent of the damage, largely because the plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power has been unable to view the state of the reactors.
Sea water is being injected into reactors 1 and 3 in an attempt to cool them a last-ditch move that will render the reactors unusable.
The authorities say that radiation levels around the damaged plant have exceeded legal safety limits and tens of thousands of people are being evacuated from within a 20km (12.4-mile) radius. “The current situation of the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear plants is in a way the most severe crisis in the past 65 years since World War II. Whether we Japanese can overcome this crisis depends on each of us. I strongly believe that we can get over this great earthquake and tsunami by joining together.” Mr. Kan said.
The earthquake has been both heart breaking and devastating for the Japanese people, and the world has responded with the The United States, the United Kingdom, China, and South Korea among 69 governments that have offered to provide assistance. A number of rescue teams from around the world arrived Sunday in Japan and are helping lead a broad international effort to bring relief to areas ravaged by Friday’s earthquake and tsunami.
Aid groups such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have sent teams to some of the worst-hit areas, including Sendai, Narita, Asahi and Tokyo. Mercy Corps International teamed with Peace Winds Japan to rush aid to affected regions.
The UK has sent a search and rescue team made up of 63 fire service search and rescue specialists. The team also includes medical support staff and two dogs, all of whom are already in Japan, the UK foreign office has said.
Despite the devastation there have been some remarkable tales of survival with the Kyodo News Agency reporting of a dramatic rescue of a 60 year old man that had been swept 15 kilometers out to sea off Fukushima prefecture.
The man, identified as Hiromitsu Shinkawa of Minami Soma, was swept away with his house. Mr. Shinkawa was later spotted floating in the sea, waving a self-made red flag while standing on a piece of his house’s roof.
After being rescued Mr. Shinkaqwa said that he and his wife had been swept away by the tsunami whilst returning home to gather some possessions following the earthquake, with his wife unlikely to have survived.
“I was saved by holding onto the roof,” he said, “but my wife was swept away. No helicopters or boats that came nearby noticed me, I thought today was the last day of my life.”
When a member of Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force handed him something to drink on the rescue boat, Shinkawa drank it and burst into tears, Kyodo reported.
How You Can Help Those in Need In Japan
If you would like to help with the disaster relief effort in Japan there are a number of charities you can support with a charity donation. The terrible natural disaster will have a long lasting affect on the country of Japan so please donate whatever you can.
- British Red Cross The Japanese Red Cross has been working on the ground since the disaster began, mobilising 86 teams, made up of around 600 doctors, nurses and support staff, to provide first aid and healthcare and assess the damage and needs of the communities affected.
- Global Giving This fund will support organizations providing relief and aid to victims.
- Save the Children have launched a £1 million appeal to help families affected by the devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami. They have a team in Japan and are responding to the needs of children affected by the disaster.
- World Vision is bringing immediate relief supplies to those left homeless. They are also sending teams to provide help for children who have been traumatised by the double disaster.