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Latest News
Special> Earthquake in Japan> Latest News
UPDATED: March 13, 2011
Tragic Earthquake Causes Huge Losses, All-Out Rescues Mobilized

Friday's catastrophic earthquake in Japan and the following devastating tsunami have ravaged the country, while massive rescue and recovery efforts have been quickly launched to save lives and minimize losses.

"This is the largest earthquake since the Meiji Era (1868-1912), and it is believed that more than 1,000 people have lost their lives," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano Saturday at the headquarters of the crisis center set up by the government in Tokyo to coordinate the response to the disaster.

The massive quake triggered 10-meter high tsunami ripping through towns and cities along the northeast coast regions, sweeping away houses, cars and ships.

Tremendous losses

The magnitude-8.8 offshore quake, hit at 2:46 p.m. local time Friday, and the massive tsunami caused death toll to exceed 620 as of 9 p.m., while a further 200 to 300 unidentified bodies were transferred to Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.

The prefectural government in Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan said late Saturday that in the town of Minamisanriku, some 9, 500 people still remain unaccounted for.

An explosion occurred at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant earlier in the day triggered public panic, but the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said late Saturday that owner and operator of the nuclear facility, Tokyo Electric Power Co., has confirmed that the steel container housing the reactor is intact.

The devastating earthquake also damaged infrastructures, roads and building across the quake-ravaged regions.

According to the fire agency, the number of partially or completely destroyed buildings has now reached some 3,400.

In port city of Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture, the landscape was virtually submerged, with only a few buildings remaining in the urban area.

In Sendai city in Miyagi Prefecture, flat farmland and a considerable number of buildings near the coast were whisked away that offered no resistance.

A municipal official of the Futaba town in Fukushima Prefecture was quoted by Kyodo as saying that more than 90 percent of the houses in three coastal communities have been washed away.

Many roads in the affected areas are inaccessible, public transportations came to a halt in the hard-hit region, and power and cellphone are still out of service.

Around 5.57 million households had lost power, while more than 1 million households in 18 prefectures had had their water supply cut off.

So far, at least 100 aftershocks have jolted the coastal areas of Japan including over 25 upper-5.0 magnitude tremors, with more expected to follow.

The economic loss of the quake and tsunami and its long-term impact is estimated at exceeding 100 billion U.S. dollars, according to some economists.

Large-scale government rescue moves

Japanese authorities have swiftly responded to emergency mechanisms, dispatching troops to carry out rescue and relief work and coordinate international rescue at the earliest possible time.

At least 3,000 people have been rescued following Friday's great earthquake, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said late Saturday at a meeting of the government's anti-disaster countermeasure unit.

The government announced Saturday it will send a further 30,000 members of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), to join the 20,000 already deployed to assist in the rescue and facilitate the urgent need of support at this crucial time, when hundreds of people were thought to be buried under rubble, stranded on rooftops, or unable to reach evacuation areas.

The defense ministry said that 190 aircraft and about 25 vessels have been or are in the process of being deployed.

Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said he expected both senior government officials and SDF officers to do everything in their power to deal with the relief efforts.

In collaboration with the U.S. military, the SDF will ferry 900 Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) personnel and 250 vehicles by U.S. ships, to quake- stricken coastal regions.

It also said joint rescue missions will be conducted by Maritime Self-Defense Force and the U.S. 7th Fleet in joint rescue missions off the Pacific coast.

It was the largest-ever anti-disaster mission ever carried out between the two forces in Japan, the defense ministry said.

GSDF forces arrived Saturday to ensure the safe evacuation of local people living near two stricken nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture that was made malfunctioned by the earthquake. Around 3,000 residents have been safely transferred.

Medical teams from 52 hospitals from around the nation have been sent to the quake-hit areas to help treat the injured.

Widely-engaged international rescues

Many countries across the world have expressed condolence and offered a helping hand to Japan.

A total of 50 nations and regions have promised to provide with relief support, and offers from over 70 specialist rescue services from around the globe have been received by Japan, with crews from Australia, News Zealand, South Korea being requested to join a 150- member team from the United States making its way to the devastated northeast of the country.

China's Premier Wen Jiabao expressed "deep sympathy and solicitudes to the Japanese government and people" Friday, and said China is willing to offer necessary assistance to Japan.

"Chinese seismic workers know exactly what Japanese people feel right now. We are willing to offer assistance to Japan anytime," Chen Jianmin, director of the China Earthquake Administration, said Friday in a condolence message sent to Mitsuhiko Hatori, director-general of the Japan Meteorological Agency.

China's International Rescue Team has put its members, equipment, materials and medicines in place since late Friday afternoon and are ready to depart for Japan to offer humanitarian assistance anytime,Chen added.

The UN Security Council members on Friday observed a moment of silence to mourn those killed in the disaster. Earlier in the day, Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon expressed his deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the Japanese people and government, saying that the United Nations will "do anything and everything" to help Japan.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has activated the European Civil Protection Mechanism to assist Japan.

Local reports said more than 215,000 people were in emergency shelters in eastern and northern Japan.

Rescue and recovery efforts continued as numerous aftershocks were expected for the coming days.

(Xinhua News Agency March 12, 2011)

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