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Asia

Death toll rises amid supply shortages and nuclear fears

The massive earthquake, tsunami and now the explosions at the nuclear reactors in Fukushima have killed thousands of people in Japan. It is feared that the number will keep on rising.

Japanese recovery teams enter a destroyed area of Sendai

Rescue workers have found thousands of dead bodies but many are still missing

So far rescue workers have found around 2,000 bodies on the shores in Miyagi prefecture, the Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported. It is the region that was hardest hit by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and the tsunami that followed. Originally, police announced death tolls around 1,600. But due to the large number of people missing, tens of thousands of people are feared dead.

Aftershock causes another explosion

On Monday morning (14 March) a further dark cloud of smoke has rose over reactor number three in Fukushima after an explosion in one of the reactor buildings. It is still unknown how big the explosion was and what the outcomes are. The Japanese news agency Kyodo said at least three people have been killed in the blast and seven employees are missing.

smoke ascends from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant's Unit 3 in Okumamachi, Fukushima

An explosion in Fukushima III is fueling fears of a nuclear meltdown

Meanwhile a spokesman of the government in Tokyo has confirmed that the inner containment hull of the reactor has not been damaged. It was believed to be a hydrogen explosion, similar to the first explosion this past Saturday, which only damaged the reactor building.

The earthquake on Friday has also cut the power to cooling systems of the nuclear plants in Fukushima. It is feared that there has been a meltdown in the reactor that could trigger a chain reaction and release an uncontrollable amount of radioactivity.

Some minutes before the explosion, an aftershock with a magnitude of 5.8 had hit the region. As a result, a tsunami warning was issued, but was later cancelled. The aftershock also caused houses in Tokyo, located about 150 kilometers away, to shake.

Hundreds of thousands have been evacuated

Japanese refugees rest inside a school gymnasium

Thousands of tsunami victims still have to spend the night in emergency shelters

Tonight, tens of thousands of people are sleeping in emergency shelters. Over 600,000 people have been evacuated from their homes since the earthquake, tsunami and incidents at the nuclear plants. "Many are in a state of shock, but are also hopeful," one eyewitness said. "They told us that the plants are 100 percent tsunami- and storm-proof."

The tsunami that came after the earthquake has caused severe damage on the north coast of the country. The wave was 10 meters high and swept away everything in its path – people, houses, cars, and boats.

Some people in the emergency shelters in Kawamata barely survived the tsunami. "I was dragged along by the waves and all of a sudden the water reached my throat, " another eyewitness gave his account of the disaster. "But I managed to rescue myself. Not until I was 100 meters away did I feel safe."

Läden in Japan sind leergekauft

In many places, people have difficulties finding anything to buy in shops

Food shortage

Meanwhile supplies are getting short. In many locations in the disaster area, food is being distributed. As one woman pointed out, it is extremely difficult to find anything in the shops. "The shops are always closed whenever I want to buy something to eat. What should I do?"

First estimations say the disaster on Friday has caused millions of dollars worth of damage. At the same time, Japan has been struggling with marginal economic growth and a deficit of 200 percent of its gross domestic product. This is the highest level of debt among the industry nations.

Author: Bernd Musch-Borowska (ag)
Editor: Sarah Berning

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