Death toll of ‘ten thousands’ predicted in Japan

500,000 forced to evacuate; shelters low on supplies


Monday, March 14, 2011
By Barbara Demick

SENDAI, Japan – Japanese authorities say thousands might have died in the massive earthquake and tsunami, which left many survivors stranded or shivering in makeshift evacuation centers that were running low on supplies today.

In Miyagi, one the three hardest-hit prefectures, at least 10,000 were killed, police spokesman Go Sugawara told the Associated Press late last night. Only 400 people had been confirmed dead in Miyagi, which has a population of 2.3 million.

Elsewhere, about 1,800 people were confirmed dead yesterday – including 200 bodies found along the coast. About 1,900 were injured, and more than 1,400 were missing.

More than 500,000 people have been forced to evacuate from quake- and tsunami-affected regions, Kyodo News reported.

Televised reports showed hundreds of thousands of hungry survivors huddled in darkened emergency centers, cut off from rescuers, aid and electricity. At least 1.4 million households had gone without water since the quake struck, and about 1.9million households were without electricity, Kyodo reported.

“We have no choice but to deal with the situation on the premise that (the death toll) will undoubtedly be numbered in the ten thousands,” Naoto Takeuchi, head of the Miyagi prefectural police, told a Kyodo reporter during a local disaster task-force meeting.

There were dramatic rescues of tsunami survivors yesterday, including a 60-year-old man who had been waiting for help since he was swept out to sea Friday.

Hiromitsu Shinkawa was spotted by rescuers at 12:40p.m. local time nine miles offshore by the crew of a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer, according to Jiji Press.

Shinkawa, from the devastated city of Minamisoma, was conscious and in “good condition,” officials said.

“I ran away after learning that the tsunami was coming,” Shinkawa told rescuers, according to Jiji Press. “But I turned back to pick up something at home, when I was washed away.”

The tsunami submerged about 5,000 houses in Rikuzentakata, a port city of about 20,000, and most of the 7,200 houses in Yamada, Kyodo reported. In Otsuchi, the tsunami swept away the town office.

Foreign search-and-rescue teams arrived in Japan yesterday, and 88 governments and six international institutions have offered assistance with recovery efforts, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

Adding to the misery were a series of more than 40 punishing aftershocks, three of magnitude 6 or more yesterday.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said there was a 70 percent probability of a magnitude 7 quake in the next three days.

Officials of Tokyo Electric Power Co. said they will begin rationing power today to the 45 million people they serve to prevent Tokyo and nearby prefectures from experiencing massive blackouts, Kyodo reported.

The power rationing is expected to continue through April, Kyodo reported.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan told reporters yesterday that his country faces its most difficult challenge since World War II, and he called on his people to unite in the face of a devastating earthquake and tsunami and potential nuclear crisis.

“This is the toughest crisis in Japan’s 65 years of postwar history,” Kan said in a televised news conference. “I’m convinced that we can overcome the crisis.”

Kan said 100,000 soldiers will be deployed to help quake victims.

Analysis: Japan quake impact seen deep and long
Mon Mar 14, 2011
By Kristina Cooke and Natsuko Waki

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Japan’s already weak economy faces deeper damage than initially thought from the triple blow of a devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, and risks prolonging its sluggish recovery.

At worst, forecasts from some economists suggest the world’s third largest economy is in danger of slipping back into recession.

The hit to growth from Japan’s worst crisis since World War 2 is likely to exceed that of the 1995 Kobe earthquake, when industrial output fell but overall output remained strong, analysts said — a downgrade from their first estimates after Japan was hit on Friday by its largest earthquake on record.

This time the yen is stronger, hampering exports, and Japan’s debts — twice the size of the $5 trillion economy — are much bigger. It also faces a major power problem.

Rolling power blackouts begin on Monday, which will lower production. Car and semiconductor factories and oil refineries in the north-east region are closed. And Japan may raise taxes to pay for relief work, reducing consumer spending.

“We now expect the Japanese economy to take longer than we expected to exit its current soft patch owing to the earthquake and tsunami,” Nomura analysts Takahide Kiuchi and Okazaki Kohei wrote in a note to clients.

Nomura expects the economy, which shrank late last year, won’t shake off its lull until the third or fourth quarter.

In contrast, some analysts initially had seen a return to growth in the April to June period.

Nissan Motor halted output at all its four domestic assembly factories and said restarting them could depend on whether it can get parts, one of many companies unsure of how quickly they can get their plants back up and running.

Power supply also is critical factor in estimating the loss to the nation’s productive capacity. Nuclear power plants are offline, and officials are grappling to control the damage and radiation leakage.

Ward McCarthy, chief economist at Jefferies in New York, called this development troubling. “It just increases uncertainty at a time when uncertainty is already high,” he said.

“If power production output is damaged in a sustainable fashion, that could have a durable impact,” said Michala Marcussen, head of global economics at Societe Generale.

Export-dependent Japan already faced vulnerabilities. The European debt crisis, an oil price spike and a still fragile recovery in the United States have all posed challenges.

Add to that a potential drop in Japanese consumption, said Brendan Brown, head of economic research at Mitsubishi UFJ. Consumers will be “under influence of squeezed incomes and trauma,” he said.

This will feed into global growth through Japan’s trade.

“The primary effect on the world economy will be on big trade partners in Asia, including China and Korea,” said Brown.


Providing at least some relief for officials, credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service suggested on Monday that it sees no sign of a fiscal crisis in Japan. A day earlier it said the “temporary” fiscal impact would not be a big factor as it ponders whether to downgrade the country’s credit ratings.

Japan was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s in January, given the lack of a plan to fix public finances, and Moody’s has warned it may do the same.

There are some positives. Some economists said the huge influx of government spending needed to repair the damage could help the Japanese economy eventually shake off its long period of sluggish growth and falling prices.

“The question is: does this finally push them out of the deflationary spiral and allow them to get their economy back on track, or does it push them deeper down?” said Sharyn O’Halloran, a professor of political economy at Columbia University.

After the 1995 Kobe earthquake, there was a big drop in industrial output, but the economy grew strongly that year and the effects of rebuilding gave it another boost in 1996. Back then, oil prices were hovering around $17-21 a barrel while the yen, key to exporters, was around 100 per dollar when the quake hit.

Currently with oil prices just off 2- year highs above $100 and the Japanese currency at a stronger 82 per dollar, the impact from these two factors alone will be more adverse.

Japan’s gross domestic product shrank by an annualized 1.3 percent in fourth quarter. A Reuters poll published before the quake showed it was likely to expand 0.5 percent in Q1, or roughly 2 percent on an annualized basis.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimates the quake-hit areas account for up to 7.8 percent of Japan’s GDP, compared with 12.4 percent from the regions affected by the Kobe earthquake.

The bank expects the hit to GDP to be at least 0.2-0.3 percentage point, although a relatively large amount of spare capacity may offset the production loss.

The yen rose sharply following the Kobe earthquake as Japanese companies repatriated capital, a pattern which may gather momentum in the coming week.

The Bank of Japan offered to pump a record $183 billion into the banking system on Monday to stabilize markets after the quake.

The central bank may also ease monetary policy further at its meeting on Monday. With interest rates virtually at zero, the most likely option is for the BOJ to top up the 5 trillion yen pool of funds it put in place last year to buy assets ranging from government bonds to private debt — a factor that could weigh on the yen.

Nomura said the BOJ could increase the scale of its asset purchases to 8-10 trillion yen.

  1. #1 by yhsiew on Monday, 14 March 2011 - 7:40 pm

    How come Japan’s nuclear power plant has only one set of cooling system? Shouldn’t there be more than one set connected to the same nuclear plant? So that when one set is down (due to jammed valve or malfunctioned generator), another set will take over.

    In earthquake prone countries which depend on nuclear power plants for electricity, surely it is advantageous to have multiple sets of cooling system located at different parts of a building.

  2. #2 by drngsc on Monday, 14 March 2011 - 8:05 pm

    My sympathies and condolences to the people of Japan.
    Is anyone aware of any donations started to help the relief efforts in Japan? Is there a Japan Earthquake Relief Fund where we can contribute the little that we have?

  3. #3 by yhsiew on Monday, 14 March 2011 - 8:34 pm

    ///Japan quake: Economy ‘to rebound’ after short-term pain///

    Friday’s earthquake and tsunami have left parts of Japan’s economy “frozen”, but analysts forecast that it will bounce back later this year.

    “There are those who see a silver lining in the horrific events of the past few days” – Stephanie Flanders Economics editor, BBC News


  4. #4 by Loh on Monday, 14 March 2011 - 10:02 pm

    Despite the 8.9 quake, the buildings in Japan are still standing. Here in Bolehland buildings collapse without any earth quake.

  5. #5 by raven77 on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 12:10 am

    Malaysians should not for a moment feel “safe” or “smug”….we were a whisker away from being Sendai in 2004…..

    I wouldnt want to live in a coastal city especially on Malaysia’s west coast….

    The next Acheh could be Malaysia…..

    At least Singapore is trying to do something about this…..

  6. #6 by Cinapek on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 12:33 am

    The scale of the trajedy is mind boggling. The latest sad, sad news is the sight of more than 1000 bodies washed ashore in Miyagi Prefecture. More is yet to come. I honestly do not know how and where to begin to offer my condolences.

    And to think we have sickos like the Berita Harian who could be so insensitive as to publish that sick cartoon of the tsunami on their front page. This is a reflection of the sick mind of the person who drew that cartoon knowing he has a sick minded editor boss who will approve it. In turn, his sick minded boss knows their sick minded newspaper under their sick minded political bosses would also think this is funny.

    More than anything else, Malaysia should seriously review their plans to set up nuclear power plants. While many would argue that natural calamities such as earthquakes or tsunamis are unlikely to happen in Malaysia, our poor maintenance culture could also trigger a catastrophic nuclear accident. Even the Japanese with their legendary work ethics and discipline combined with superb organizational and engineering skills could find themselves in such a predicament at the moment, can you imagine how our well known poor maintenance culture could cope with a similar accident?

  7. #7 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 1:21 am

    Berita Harian, Utusan Melayu, UmnoB – extremely arrogant n insensitif bullies, sickos

  8. #8 by tak tahan on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 2:52 am

    Cinapek,you just said something i wanted to say,kamsiah,besides,i just want to share my feeling for my lost touch and contact God family in Japan.I would like to gather more better way or idea to get to know their safety information.

  9. #9 by waterfrontcoolie on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 8:10 am

    I believe the Japanese people are more resilient than many other races. After WWII, they climbed up just like the Germans, this hopefully could be blessing in disguise for past 15 years of economic lethargy. Our hearts bleed with them.

  10. #10 by k1980 on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 8:11 am

    If nuclear reactors built near the sea can have meltdowns, then how are those reactors built inland going to get the water to cool down the reactors?

    The world must now seriously look at solar / wind power to replace nuclear plants

  11. #11 by k1980 on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 8:15 am

    Berita Harian should display cartoons showing ultraman (plus godzilla, doraemon and the pokemons) using their super powers to roll the waves back into the sea.

  12. #12 by wanderer on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 8:40 am

    ……10,000 expected dead in a completely wiped out
    Miyagi village. Beside this sorrowful event, evacuations are continuing from after shocks and the damaged nuclear plants, these poor victims are suffering from extreme, extreme cold, lack of foods and water….yet, the deranged low lives from Berita Harian were so insensitive to the sufferings of these unfortunate people. Grow up, you brainless ba#tards!!

  13. #13 by dagen on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 9:50 am

    About 30 minutes ago another (apparently the third) explosion was heard in one of the japanese reactors. What actually happened? I understand, there was no meltdown (from news). So that means no chernobyl style disaster.

    But what meltdown are those people talking about? I shall not attempt to explain. Read this instead – for general knowledge:

    ///(CBS News) Japanese officials say that at least 160 people have been exposed to excessive radiation as partial meltdowns occurred at two crippled plants.

    CBS News anchor Russ Mitchell reports that officials are concerned that water levels have dropped so much inside two of the reactors that parts of the uranium-filled fuel rods are exposed. In the worst-case scenario, that could contribute to a meltdown.

    But what exactly does that mean?

    Japan’s ambassador to the United States conceded Sunday that part of the fuel rods inside the Fukushima nuclear power plant may be melting – but, he said, the reactor core is not. A big concern is that the water levels inside the reactors has sunk, leaving the uranium-filled fuel rods exposed. A full “meltdown” is, of course, something the Japanese are trying to avoid.

    Even two days after they shut down, Fukushima’s reactors are still generating heat.

    “From the nuclear fuel roads. It’s much like if you have an electric stove, and you immediately turn it off, if you put your hand on the stove, you will not be very happy,” said Dale Klein, the former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

    Simply put, a “meltdown” is when the nuclear fuel inside the reactor gets so hot, it literally melts. Uranium pellets are inside the long fuel rods. If the reactor is not cooled properly, the tubes can fall apart, with the radioactive material falling to the bottom.

    “It’s like a car accident — it can be a fender bender all the way up to a major collision,” Klein said. “So when you talk about fuel melting, you can have just a few pellets melt, or you can have a large number of pellets to melt.”

    The key issue is whether the reactors are being adequately cooled with water. If not, melting could begin.

    “When the fuel melts, it will flow like wax into the bottom of the reactor vessel head, and if there’s water there, it will solidify and freeze. End of story,” Andrew Kadak, a professor of nuclear science at MIT said.

    Fears of a radiological release are legitimate, but Kadak says, no one should imagine a mushroom cloud.

    “Of course, we’re just hypothesizing, the releases will occur when the plant decides to open the reactor containment to relieve the pressure,” Kadak said.

    Experts say the situation at Fukushima is similar to what happened at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant, in Pennsylvania, in 1979. Kadak recalled that there was a considerable melting of the core, “but essentially all of the material was contained in the concrete containment. Namely, very little of it was released.”

    Unlike volcano dust, which can be carried long distances by winds, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the West Coast of the U.S. is not in danger.

    “Even if there were a significant release, it would be dispersed probably before it came to the United States, but at the present time it seems unlikely that there will be a major radioactive release,” according to Klein. ///

    Thought I saw cintanegara the other day on his way to the airport. “On to Japan”, I heard him telling someone while clutching a thick book entitled Prinsip2 Ekonomi Pokok Rambutan.

  14. #14 by yhsiew on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 11:21 am

    /// France: Low-level radioactive wind may reach Tokyo in 10 hours/// – March 15, 2011

    Low-level radioactive wind from a quake-stricken nuclear power reactor in northern Japan could reach Tokyo within 10 hours, based on current winds, the French embassy said in a statement today. The statement, posted on its Japanese website, urged French citizens in the city to stay indoors, close the windows and not to panic.

    It makes one wonder whether such radioactive wind will ever reach Malaysia!

  15. #15 by AhPek on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 11:23 am

    Whilst cintanegara might engage himself in serious study on Prinsip2 Ekonomi Pokok rambutan,I thought it would also be most informative for him,since he is the expert on affairs of the little red dot,to know that Brigadier-General Ravinder Singh is going to be the next chief of Singapore Army,and the Sikh community there is only between 12,000 and 15,000.So cintanegara please work out the percentage of Sikh in singapore given that the current population is 4.5 million.

  16. #16 by dagen on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 11:44 am

    Err Ahpek, perhaps that sikh BG down south too has declared himself orang singapura (practised singapura culture and speak singapura language and went along with the, well whatever, singapura religion) and claimed that he could not recall where in punjab his ancestors were from. So you see by that simple trick he would be seen as one of 4million and not one of (wot?) 15,000.

    Tricky fella, ai?


  17. #17 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 11:45 am

    Malaysia can build their nuclear plants under sea. Afterall, nuclear bombs are tested under sea.

  18. #18 by dagen on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 12:35 pm

    If malaysian nuclear plants are shaped to look like a certain red and hairy fruit then I reckon they surely would withstand all quakes. Even a direct missile (armed with nuclear warhead) hit would do them no harm.

    Jib’s got tower power.
    Jib Jib Boleh!

  19. #19 by undertaker888 on Tuesday, 15 March 2011 - 12:37 pm

    what is utusan going to draw next? all useless bunch of BTN educated bigots and half past six brains.

    people are dying by the thousands and they make a joke about it. that shows how insensitive the umno corrupted goons are. physically and mentally.

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