World — 14 March 2011

Thousands dead, Japanese nuclear reactors in trouble

On the fourth day of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster, the death toll has jumped to approximately 1600. However, it is expected that the final toll will be counted in the tens of thousands.

Japanese searchers climbing through the rubble of homes and buildings have mostly been finding elderly people dead inside. But thousands have been rescued, with many of them winched to safety by scores of helicopters.

There are now 100,000 Japanese self-defense force troops deployed to help with the disaster, which began at 2:46 pm Friday afternoon (Japan time) when an 8.9 size earthquake erupted 130 kms off the northwest coast of Japan and triggered a tsunami that hit the shoreline within minutes.

The farming and fishing community of Sendai was the closest area and city to the monster quake and was hit by a 33 foot tsunami (10 meters) which swept fishing boats and cars across the land, demolishing buildings and killing thousands immediately. Most of the dead are still buried beneath in the debris that covers the land in mud and matchwood.

At the troubled Fukushima nuclear power station north of Tokyo and south of the areas damaged most by the tsunami, there are two heat-damaged nuclear reactors that are believed to have suffered a partial meltdown. Engineers have desperately been trying to cool them down after the backup cooling sytems failed when emergency pumps and generators were destroyed by the tsunami.

Technicians have been pumping sea-water into at least one of the reactors. The sea water means it can never be operated again, so that shows how desperate the engineers are. Escaping steam and gas destroyed the containment building housing the Number 1 reactor at the Fukushima plant.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from a 20 mile radius around the nuclear power plant at Fukushima, and by this morning, another emergency is developing at another nuclear power plant at Onagawa.

The only “good” news at the Japanese nuclear facility at Fukushima is that the atomic reactors are all very-well built. If a full meltdown actually happens, then experts believe will be more like America’s Five Mile Island incident, (where most of the radiation was contained) and not like Russia’s Chernobyl disaster (where vast amounts of radiation were released).

Foreign assistance is beginning to arrive in Japan. The American aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan, is now anchored offshore. Civilian rescue teams, supplies and equipment from Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, China and the United States have already arrived.

The rescuer teams will be delighted if they can find any survivors and rescue them alive. But the sober fact is that it is far more likely to be a recovery, clean-up and rebuilding operation.

Yesterday, the Japanese Prime Minister Mr Naoto Kan said the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear power plant incidents have created the biggest crisis Japan has seen in the 65 years — since the end of World War II.

“Whether we Japanese can overcome this crisis depends on each of us,” he said through an interpreter.

The Prime Minister said he strongly believes the nation can get through the disaster by joining and rebuilding together to make Japan a better place.

Editor’s note: This sitrep is now out of date. An up to date news report has been posted for you on NEWS.


About Author

David Harvey, Editor

David Harvey left school at 17 and went straight into newspapers as a cadet reporter. (He also a keen photographer and learned both trades.) He worked as a photojournalist in Hong Kong and as a war correspondent in Vietnam during the war. He moved to Australia in the late 1970s and got involved in I.T. during the mid-80s. This website is his latest venture here, combining news-gathering with the power of the internet. See: news-reporter

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