Saturday, March 12, 2011

UPDATE: Death toll rises in post-quake Japan, nuclear crisis northeast of Tokyo

by Chris MaGee

It has been a harrowing day and night of watching footage and getting reports from a number of news sources online and getting emails from friends in Japan, but the situation is growing grimmer after the massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture on Friday, March 11th. The breadth of the tragedy is more than can be complied in a short post, so we'll just give you a few current statistics and provide you with some links to a number of news sources.

As of this writing the situation is:

- The Japanese government is saying that 642 people in the affected area have been reported missing, and 1,426 have been injured. Unofficial estimates are numbering the dead to be in excess of 1,000 while as many as 9,500 people may be missing.

- The earthquake was the strongest in Japanese history, and one of the most powerful quakes in the world since record keeping began in the early 1800's. Apparently the island of Honshu moved 8-feet due to the quake.

- In excess of 215,000 people have been taking shelter in 1,350 emergency facilities across five prefectures.

- Approximately one million homes in Miyagi Prefecture and along the eastern coast of Japan have been without water since the quake and subsequent tsunami.

- Eastern Japan, including Tokyo, has been experiencing regular aftershocks. Some friends have emailed saying that they have been coming as frequently as once every 30 to 60 minutes.

- Most disturbing of all is that the Fukushima #1 nuclear plant approximately 240 kms northeast of Tokyo has been fighting to keep its reactor cooled after a coolant malfunction caused by the quake. Today an explosion rocked the facility although officials are saying that the sealed reactor was not breached. Still radiation levels at the gate of the facility have reached 8 times the normal level and 1,000 timers the normal level inside. 51,000 people in a 10 km range around the plant have been evacuated.

Obviously this is an ongoing story of historic proportions. We will be continuing to follow news coverage, and we encourage you to do the same at news sites such as NHK's Englsih Service, BBC News and CBC News. You can see a full gallery of photos from Japan like the ones above at the Toronto Star here.

We also encourage each and every one of our readers to follow the link on our main page to the Japan Society Relief Fund. The Japan Society has partnered with several Japanese and American non-profit organizations who are providing aid to Japan during this crisis. 100% of funds donated will be going directly to help the victims of this tragedy. Even a couple of dollars from all of our readers will make a huge difference to those suffering through this terrible ordeal.

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