Tsunami: 10,000 people feared dead in Japan
As Japanese officials continued to grapple with the threat of a major nuclear meltdown, the rescue effort intensified in the northeast of the country following the magnitude 8.9 earthquake that hit last Friday.
Speaking at a meeting of the emergency disaster headquarters on Saturday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that at least 1,000 people had lost their lives, although with reports coming through that as many as 10,000 people were still missing in Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture (about half the town’s population).
The Japanese government said radiation emanating from the nuclear plant appeared to have decreased after the blast, which produced an intensifying cloud of white smoke that swallowed the complex. But authorities did not say why, and the precise cause of the explosion and the extent of the ongoing danger were not clear.
Japan dealt with the nuclear threat as it struggled to determine the scope of the earthquake, the most powerful in its recorded history, and the tsunami that ravaged its northeast with breathtaking speed and power. The official count of the dead was 686, but the government said the figure could far exceed 1,000.
As many as 50,000 troops from Japan’s Self-Defence Forces were dispatched to assist with rescue efforts, which could be further hampered by the ongoing aftershocks.
Estimates vary on how many there have been, but their frequency and intensity (the strongest so far has been magnitude 6.7, and they’ve been regularly rattling us here in Tokyo) poses a threat to buildings made unstable by the initial quake.