Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan disaster: Latest updates 15 mar 2011

The staggering numbers continue. The official death toll in Japan's disastrous earthquake and tsunami has passed 2,400.
Police said 2,414 people are confirmed dead and 3,118 missing, with 1,885 injured.
The official toll yesterday stood at 1,647.
However, the police chief of Miyagi, one of the hardest-hit prefectures, said the number of deaths in his region alone could ultimately exceed 10,000.
The Nikkei index has fallen below the 9000 level.
Tokyo shares fell 6.42 percent in morning trade today, a day after their lowest close in two years following Japan's devastating natural disasters and nuclear emergency.
Some analysts say the Nikkei could fall as far as the 7000 level, as the emergency continues.
A desperate shortage of supplies is a major concern for the thousands of displaced citizens in northern Japan facing a fourth night in near-freezing temperatures. Broadcaster NHK reported that many emergency shelters were running out of food and fuel, leaving weakened survivors cold and hungry.
"People are surviving on little food and water.

Things are simply not coming," Hajime Sato, a government official in Iwate, told Associated Press. He said the prefecture was receiving just a tenth of the food and supplies it needed.
Radiation leaking from the Fukushima plant has increased to eight times its annual limit in an hour, Tokyo Electric Power Company officials report.
The 8,217 micro sievert per hour reading was detected after a third blast hit the plant this morning, Kyodo News reports.
Columbus, Ohio-based insurance company Aflac has fired actor and comedian Gilbert Gottfried - the voice of the company's famed duck - because of insensitive remarks he made via Twitter following last Friday's catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Gottfried tweeted several jokes about Japan.
"Japan is such an important market to us. And with who we are as a company, that's just unacceptable", said Michael Zuna, Aflac's chief marketing officer.
Gottfried began his career as a stand-up comic and appeared on shows like Saturday Night Live and on MTV.
Zynga, maker of popular social networking games such as FarmVille, say its players have raised US$1 ($1.35) million for Save the Children's Japan relief efforts.
Zynga spokeswoman Dani Dudeck said on her Twitter feed that the money for the Japan Earthquake Tsunami Children in Emergency Fund was raised in 36 hours.
A second explosion was heard at the Fukushima Daiichi No.2 reactor today, news agencies are reporting.
A blogger on the Telegraph says he's surprised that there seems to have been little or no looting since the disaster. A similar situation in Britain, he suggests, would see quite different behaviours.
And the calm reaction to the crisis displayed by the Japanese also demonstrates that nation's reputation for stoicism in the face of adversity.
The US Geological Survey has upgraded the magnitude of Friday's deadly earthquake in Japan to a 9.0.
The move comes after Japan's Meteorological Agency did the same. It's not unusual for scientists to tweak the magnitude of a giant quake after some number-crunching.
US government scientists originally put the Japan quake at 8.9. The change to 9.0 means that the quake was about 1.5 times stronger than initially thought.
The Japan quake is now the fourth largest in the world since 1900 behind the 2004 magnitude-9.1 Sumatra quake.
The rotating blackouts in Tokyo, to ease pressure on the power grid, mean that life in the capital is anything but normal. Transportation systems are affected, and shops cannot process Eftpos transactions during blackout times. (NHK News)
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has confirmed 1570 New Zealanders are safe and well in Japan. However, the ministry has specific concerns around the safety of two New Zealanders.
There have been no reports of New Zealand casualties or injuries, the ministry says.
MFAT is advising against all tourist and non-essential travel to Tokyo and the tsunami-affected areas in the Japan's northeast.
Air New Zealand warned today the Christchurch and Japanese disasters meant it would not make a profit in the second half of the fiscal year, sending shares in the airline plummeting.
"The company does not expect to be profitable in the second half," it said in a statement, adding the impact of the Christchurch earthquake was more severe than expected and the disaster in Japan would also hit revenues.
Its share price fell 7.5 per cent on the news.
The BBC reports how the Japanese disaster has reopened the nuclear debate in Europe and the United States.
France's ASN nuclear safety authority says the accident in Japan could be classed as level 5 or 6 on the international scale of 1 to 7, on a par with the 1979 US Three Mile Island meltdown.
The severity estimate, based on ASN's assessment of data provided by Japan, is above the rating of 4 that Japan's nuclear safety agency has given the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan says the government is setting up a joint response headquarters with the operator of a stricken nuclear reactor to better manage the crisis.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown confirmed two Aucklanders teaching English at Tomioka, a sister city of Auckland, had left the city for a town 100km away. Both were safe but shaken, he said.
Auckland will send a condolence letter to all seven sister cities as they deal with the damage inflicted by Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami.
Councillor Arthur Anae and members of the Council's Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel attended Japan Day yesterday to express solidarity with Auckland's Japanese community.
Japanese TV reports the official death toll from the tsunami disaster now stands at 1900, with 15,000 people still unaccounted for. A large number of fatalities are expected in the Miyagi prefecture.
Google, Twitter and other technology companies are finding ways to help following last week's earthquake in Japan.
Google has an online "person finder" for people seeking information about a missing person.
Microsoft is offering free technical support and temporary software licenses to companies affected by the earthquake. It has also pledged $250,000 in cash.
Twitter is trying to help organise the flood of information flowing through its system. It is suggesting people use certain tags for general earthquake information, requests for rescue and other related topics.
Amazon and Yahoo have links on their home pages encouraging people to donate to the relief efforts.
Japan's leading experts in rescue robotics are deploying wheeled and snake-like robots to assist emergency responders in the search for survivors of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the country last Friday.
Technology firms are facing major disruption to supplies in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami.
Many of them have had to stop production to carry out safety checks and the prospect of rolling blackouts means further interruptions are likely over the coming weeks.
Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba and Canon are among the companies affected.
The United States has sent a team of experts to assist Japan at the nuclear site, including two cooling experts.
The uranium fuel rods at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant are "completely exposed" according to reports, raising the threat of a meltdown, hours after a hydrogen explosion tore through the building housing a different reactor.
Water levels were restored after the first decrease, but the rods remained partially exposed early today (NZ time), increasing the risk of the spread of radiation.
''The situation at the Fukushima plant continues to be a concern,'' said Japan's Prime Minister, Naoto Kan.
Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami may cost the global insurance industry as much as $60 (NZ$81) billion, which would make the disaster the most expensive ever behind Hurricane Katrina, according to early estimates.
The Australian Foreign Affairs ministry says it believes there have been no Australian casualties from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Roads and rail, power and ports have been crippled across much of the northeast of Japan's main island Honshu, hampering relief efforts. The government has mobilised 100,000 soldiers to deliver food, water and fuel. Around 70 countries have offered assistance and hundreds of foreign rescue workers are assisting quake and tsunami victims.
America's president is again offering his full support to Japan.
Barack Obama says like all Americans, he continues to be heartbroken by the images of devastation in Japan.
He is reiterating America's support for the people of Japan, who he says are some of the US's closest friends and allies.
He has told Prime Minister Kan the United States will continue to offer any assistance it can as Japan recovers from multiple disasters.
Japan has distributed 230,000 units of iodine to evacuation centres in the area around Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini nuclear power plants, according to officials. The iodine is a precautionary measure and has not yet been administered to residents, the International Atomic Energy Agency says. The ingestion of stable iodine can help to prevent the accumulation of radioactive iodine in the thyroid.

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