Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster Toll Underreported

Updated : Official Death Toll Reported to be 1,217

Two Days After the 8.9 Magnitude Earthquake and Tsunamis, the True Extent of the Disaster in Japan is Yet Unknown.

Rescue teams from various countries, including the United States, Great Britain, and numerous other countries, have set out for Japan, to join what is being described as the ''colossal'' effort to rescue survivors of the tripple tragedies of the earthquake, tsunami, and the resulting nuclear emergencies.

Reports of food shortages in Japan continue to grow, not only as a result of the damage to stores, but to transportation and distribution systems.

One emotional story that demonstrates the large scale loss of life is the often-repeated news report that as many as 10,000 people are reported to be missing in the port town of Minamisanriku, after the tsunami swept away large portions of the town.

Adding to the rescue and recovery efforts is the concern about the nuclear emergency taking place at the Fukushami nuclear power plants. The New York Times is finally catching up to the severity of the nuclear fears.

''The emergency appeared to be the worst involving a nuclear plant since the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago. The developments at two separate nuclear plants prompted the evacuation of more than 200,000 people. Japanese officials said they had also ordered up the largest mobilization of their Self-Defense Forces since World War II to assist in the relief effort.

''On Saturday, Japanese officials took the extraordinary step of flooding the crippled No. 1 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, 170 miles north of Tokyo, with seawater in a last-ditch effort to avoid a nuclear meltdown. That came after an explosion caused by hydrogen that tore the outer wall and roof off the building housing the reactor, although the steel containment of the reactor remained in place.

''Then on Sunday, cooling failed at a second reactor — No. 3 — and core melting was presumed at both, said the top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano. An explosion could also rock the No. 3 reactor, Mr. Edano warned, because of a buildup of hydrogen within the reactor.''

The official death toll, reported to be as low as 800 people, is unrealistic in the face of the evidence of disaster in the coastal town and villages following the dangerous tsunami.

Another example of the underreporting of the extent of the damage is the growing reality that Japan is facing a nuclear emergency. Although more than 200,000 people have been evacuated from danger zones around two atomic facilities in Fukushima, Japanese media and government officials keep insisting that few people have been hospitalised as as result of radiation exposure. And the events at the Fukushima nuclear power plants continue to be irresponsibly described as possible''partial meltdowns,'' in spite of the facts that one nuclear reactor exploded on Saturday and the desperate efforts to cool the damaged nuclear reactor cores at the troubled nuclear power plants with sea water.

Nobody knows what Japan's plans are, in order to keep people safe, should a nuclear meltdown happen.

Meanwhile, the divergence in reporting doesn't end with the fallout of the disaster. Even the size of the earthquake is in dispute. The Associated Press has reported that the Meteorological Agency in Japan upgraded the magnitude of Friday's catastrophic earthquake to 9.0 from its earlier measurement of 8.8. By comparison, the U.S. Geological Survey had measured the earthquake at magnitude 8.9 -- leaving that measurement unchanged as of Sunday.

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