Earthquake in Japan (March 2011) — 6

12 March 2011 — 13:30 GMT; 22:30 in Japan

Search and rescue operations continue in the heavily affected areas. However, the big picture is yet to emerge, hampered by the scale of the disaster, aftershocks, power cuts, and now darkness. It is not only dark, but also cold, as the lowest temperatures in the affected areas may well fall below the freezing point.

According to the National Police Agency (as of 21:00 local time), 623 people are confirmed dead, 653 reported missing, and 1374 injured. The figure for the dead does not include the 200 to 300 bodies in Wakabayashi Disctrict in Sendai that have been seen by a police officer. The number of missing relates only to those whose families have reported missing thus satisfying the legal condition of the term, and the actual number of people missing or unaccounted for is variously guessed at, but it will be a substantial number, probably numbering in the thousands. Many people in areas struck by the tsunamis are isolated in tall buildings such as schools and public halls, and sometimes on rooftops. Some places are not yet accessible to the rescue operators, and in some instances, there are plans to drop food, blankets and other necessities from the air.

The situation regarding the Fukushima No 1 nuclear power plant no 1 reactor is causing concern. The evacuation zone has been extended further to a 20 km radius of the plant. There was an explosion at around 15:30, however, this was an explosion of hydrogen that built up in the building. The containment vessel has not been breached, and there has been no massive radiation leak. There is still an urgent need to cool down the reactor, and the company and the authorities are planning to use sea water. Electricity generation has been affected, because of many powers stations being shut down, and there are plans for rolling blackouts.