Earthquake in Japan (March 2011) — 8

13 March 2011 — 01:30 GMT; 10:30 in Japan

There is as yet no complete picture as to the extent of the devastation wreaked by the earthquake and the tsunamis. Reports are still coming in drips and drabs. Newspapers and other media are reporting first-hand accounts, and many eyewitnesses speak of horrific, unimaginable scenes: only debris remain where homes once stood, except a few buildings such as hospital, schools and public halls which have acted as shelters, hopefully saving many lives. But it is unfortunately the case that many lives were lost. Bodies have been recovered at various locations, including around one hundred in Natori, near Sendai. The official figures released by the National Police Agency put the number of confirmed deaths at 689, and the missing at 639, as of 08:00 local time. However, these figures will increase, inevitably, over the course of the days to come.

The nuclear power plant in Fukushima is still a major concern. The situation at the no 1 reactor seems to be under control, despite a partial meltdown, as sea water has been pumped in to cool down the reactor. This would be little comfort to over 100 people near the plant, who have been exposed to radiation. It is now the no 3 reactor in the same plant that is becoming a worry. The cooling system has stopped functioning. The electricity company is taking precautionary measures, and for the moment, the pressure inside the reactor has not reached dangerous levels.

Aftershocks still rock the area, and there are still quakes in the Nagano / Niigata border region. Most parts of the worst affected areas are still without power or water, available food and fuel are running short, and access to telecommunications very difficult.