Thursday, March 24, 2011

Disaster in Japan: Latest developments, March 24

(The Yomiuri Shimbun) According to the Compensation for Nuclear Damages Law, which specifies nuclear power plant operators' accountability when accidents occur, the Japanese government could pay between 120 billion yen and 240 billion yen to compensate farmers and businesses near the embattled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, sources told Japanese newspaper The Yomiuri Shimbun. Most likely, the government will pay any portion Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the plant, could not afford financially.

While TEPCO should shoulder primary responsibility for the nuclear accident, the Japanese government will also help victims, said Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Yoshiaki Takaki in a House of Councillors Budget Committee meeting Tue.

(AP) Nissan Motor Co. said Thursday it is considering moving some engine production from Japan to the U.S. because of earthquake damage to a Japanese plant, another illustration of how seriously the disaster has upended the global network of auto supplies. Car factories could face serious shortages of Japanese parts by the middle of next month unless Japan's auto industry can quickly restart its shuttered production following a devastating earthquake and tsunami March 11, experts say.

(AP) As the toll of the thousands of victims weighs on the consciousness of the Japanese people, and the leaking nuclear reactors at Fukushima scare the country into a run on all basic necessities, the many mountains of debris left by the earthquake and tsunami loom as a daunting challenge. More than five years after Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Coast region is still not close to being done with cleanup. "In Katrina, you had debris that had seawater, sewage, chemicals, gasoline, oil, that was all mixed together in a toxic soup," said David McEntire, a disaster expert at the University of North Texas. "And you're going to have similar problems with the disaster in Japan."

(AP) Some shops across Tokyo began rationing goods - milk, toilet paper, rice and water - as a run on bottled water coupled with delivery disruptions left shelves bare Thursday nearly two weeks after a devastating earthquake and tsunami. The unusual sights of scarcity in one of the world's richest, most modern capitals came a day after city officials reported that radioactive iodine in Tokyo's tap water measured more than twice the level considered safe for babies.

(Reuters) - Toyko's local government announced radiation has been detected in a vegetable grown in the capital city, according to a Kyodo news agency report cited by Reuters. A green, leafy vegetable with 1.8 times the amount of radioactive cesium was found in Tokyo days after radiation was discovered in plants near the Fukushima nuclear plant 150 miles away.

(AP) - Japan's National Police Agency said 9,811 people died in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, while another 17,541 are listed as missing.

(The New York Times) - The short-term fix that Japanese workers used to fend off a meltdown at the nuclear power plant crippled by the earthquake and tsunami that hit the nation nearly two weeks ago has created a new problem that could lead to the release of radioactive material.

(AP) - At the tsunami-struck Fukushima nuclear plant, three workers were exposed to radioactive elements. Officials said two have been hospitalized but that they were exposed to radiation levels below the maximum allowed for workers trying to prevent the plant's reactors from overheating.

(AP) - Shops in Tokyo rationed water, milk and other goods as a run on products coupled with delivery disruptions left shelves bare Thursday. Demand for bottled water spiked a day after officials reported radioactive iodine in the capital's tap water was more than twice the level considered safe for infants. The government urged calm and ordered a special distribution of bottled water to families with babies under 1. Even as readings showed Tokyo tap water is safe again, reports emerged of elevated levels of cancer-linked iodine in three neighboring prefectures.

(AP) - In Iceland, officials said they have measured trace amounts of radioactive iodine in the air but assured residents it is "less than a millionth" of levels found in European countries in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The U.S., Canada, Australia and Hong Kong had earlier said they were either halting or upgrading controls on Japanese food imports from areas near the plant.

(AP) - The crisis in Japan has prompted outpouring of aid worldwide. More than 19,000 U.S. Marines and sailors, with 20 ships and 140 aircraft, have delivered relief supplies, surveyed ports, conducted aerial searches and surveys and provided support to rescuers. U.S. 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk calls it "the most complex humanitarian mission ever conducted." Even reclusive North Korea says it is helping. State media reports leader Kim Jong Il has sent $500,000 to ethnic Koreans in Japan.

(AP) - Rescuers returned a stranded baby porpoise to the sea after it was found splashing in an inland rice paddy where it was heaved by the tsunami. A passer-by spotted the 3-foot-long finless porpoise Tuesday just over a mile from shore.

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