Japan disaster: Latest updates

By NZ Herald staff

7.34pm
That concludes our latest updates for this evening. We'll be back tomorrow with more coverage from Japan.
7.04pm
Canned goods, batteries, bread and bottled water have vanished from store shelves as Japan grapples with a new risk set off by last week's earthquake and tsunami: panic-buying.
Stores are running out of necessities far outside the disaster zone, raising fears that hoarding may hurt the delivery of food aid to those who really need it.
The frenzied buying is compounding supply problems from damaged and congested roads, shut factories, reduced train service and other disruptions.
Government officials are asking people to refrain from buying items they don't need.
Retailers say they haven't seen such panic in years, perhaps since the oil crisis in the 1970s.
6.57pm
Lost homes, sunken boats and damaged piers caused tsunami damage estimates to jump into the tens of millions of dollars in Hawaii and California.
In Hawaii, the rough estimate combines damage to homes, businesses, hotels, boats, piers and government infrastructure.
The most serious damages were near Kealakekua Bay and Kailua-Kona on the Big Island. Haleiwa and Keehi Lagoon on Oahu, as well as areas of Maui and Molokai, also lost significant value.
At least 25 boats sank at Keehi Lagoon, and an undetermined number of homes may have been destroyed along the Big Island's west coast beyond the two previously reported, including one that floated out to sea.
No one was killed or injured during the tsunami, which arrived in Hawaii early Friday morning as a result of a magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan.


"It's in the millions in terms of property, but it's very small in terms of personal injury and deaths. Of course, we're very, very fortunate," said Gov. Neil Abercrombie, who planned to visit areas damaged by the tsunami on Tuesday local time.

6.20pm
People in New Zealand do not need to worry about radiation poisoning should a quake-damaged nuclear power plant in Japan suffer catastrophic meltdowns, an expert says.
Should there be radioactive fallout from the facilities, it would not affect the southern hemisphere, GNS Science senior scientist Bernard Barry said. Read more here.
5.57pm
Officials have detected slightly higher-than-normal radiation levels in Tokyo but insist there are no health dangers.
The radiation increase follows a nuclear crisis in northeastern Japan, where a series of reactors were hit by last Friday's earthquake and tsunami.
Takayuki Fujiki, a Tokyo government official says: "The amount is extremely small, and it does not raise health concerns. It will not affect us."
5.29pm
China's coast guard says it has a cutter on standby to help Japan's earthquake relief operations.
If requested by Japan, the mission would mark the Chinese coast guard's first-ever participation in an international relief effort.
A staff officer at the Maritime Safety Administration's Shanghai headquarters said one of the service's largest cutters, the 3,000-ton helicopter-equipped Haixun-21, was ordered to a state of readiness Friday and is awaiting further orders.
China's military sent two planes and a frigate to evacuate Chinese from war-torn Libya last month in the first such missions for the Chinese military.
China already sent a rescue team and supplies to Japan.
5.25pm
New Zealand's Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team in Japan are settled in the northern part of the country and about to start work helping to find survivors of Friday's magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami.
The team's work will involve identifying the sites where survivors are most likely to be, undertaking rescue operations and helping to move survivors to safety.


4.24pm
Japan's nuclear safety agency says the fire at a fourth reactor of stricken nuke plant Fukushima Daiichi has been extinguished.
4.13pm
Parliament today expressed its condolences to the people of Japan for the losses they have suffered as a result of last Friday's earthquake and tsunami.
The House adopted a motion introduced by Prime Minister John Key.
"The extent of the number of casualties is only just becoming clear," he said.
"As the extent of this terrible tragedy unfolds, I wish to express the deepest sympathies and condolences of the New Zealand Government to Japan."
Mr Key said New Zealanders had watched in horror and disbelief the scenes of destruction in Japan.
"We have recently experienced our own deadly earthquake, so it was with very raw emotion that we first heard of the devastation and loss of life in Japan."
Mr Key said he spoken to Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan and personally conveyed his sympathies.
"He explained to me the enormous devastation that Japan is facing, and he said that the Japanese government and people are united in dealing with the situation."
Mr Key said New Zealand would help Japan in any way it could.
Party leaders spoke in support of the motion, which was adopted unanimously.
3.40pm
A fire is now burning at a fourth reactor Japan's quake-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, with Prime Minister Naoto Kan warning a meltdown is likely.
Mr Kan says radiation levels have risen considerably, and has told people within 30 kilometres of the plant to stay indoors.

2.52pm
Here's a report from the Red Cross on what they are doing in Japan, and how you can help.

2.25pm
The staggering numbers continue. The official death toll in Japan's disastrous earthquake and tsunami has passed 2,400.
Police said 2,414 people are confirmed dead and 3,118 missing, with 1,885 injured.
The official toll yesterday stood at 1,647.
However, the police chief of Miyagi, one of the hardest-hit prefectures, said the number of deaths in his region alone could ultimately exceed 10,000.
2.16pm
The Nikkei index has fallen below the 9000 level.
Tokyo shares fell 6.42 percent in morning trade today, a day after their lowest close in two years following Japan's devastating natural disasters and nuclear emergency.
Some analysts say the Nikkei could fall as far as the 7000 level, as the emergency continues.
2.11pm
A desperate shortage of supplies is a major concern for the thousands of displaced citizens in northern Japan facing a fourth night in near-freezing temperatures. Broadcaster NHK reported that many emergency shelters were running out of food and fuel, leaving weakened survivors cold and hungry.
"People are surviving on little food and water. Things are simply not coming," Hajime Sato, a government official in Iwate, told Associated Press. He said the prefecture was receiving just a tenth of the food and supplies it needed.
1.29pm
Radiation leaking from the Fukushima plant has increased to eight times its annual limit in an hour, Tokyo Electric Power Company officials report.
The 8,217 micro sievert per hour reading was detected after a third blast hit the plant this morning, Kyodo News reports.
1.15pm
Columbus, Ohio-based insurance company Aflac has fired actor and comedian Gilbert Gottfried - the voice of the company's famed duck - because of insensitive remarks he made via Twitter following last Friday's catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Gottfried tweeted several jokes about Japan.
"Japan is such an important market to us. And with who we are as a company, that's just unacceptable", said Michael Zuna, Aflac's chief marketing officer.
Gottfried began his career as a stand-up comic and appeared on shows like Saturday Night Live and on MTV.
12.55pm
Zynga, maker of popular social networking games such as FarmVille, say its players have raised US$1 ($1.35) million for Save the Children's Japan relief efforts.
Zynga spokeswoman Dani Dudeck said on her Twitter feed that the money for the Japan Earthquake Tsunami Children in Emergency Fund was raised in 36 hours.
12.22pm
A second explosion was heard at the Fukushima Daiichi No.2 reactor today, news agencies are reporting.
12.05pm
A blogger on the Telegraph says he's surprised that there seems to have been little or no looting since the disaster. A similar situation in Britain, he suggests, would see quite different behaviours.
And the calm reaction to the crisis displayed by the Japanese also demonstrates that nation's reputation for stoicism in the face of adversity.
11.55am
The US Geological Survey has upgraded the magnitude of Friday's deadly earthquake in Japan to a 9.0.
The move comes after Japan's Meteorological Agency did the same. It's not unusual for scientists to tweak the magnitude of a giant quake after some number-crunching.
US government scientists originally put the Japan quake at 8.9. The change to 9.0 means that the quake was about 1.5 times stronger than initially thought.
The Japan quake is now the fourth largest in the world since 1900 behind the 2004 magnitude-9.1 Sumatra quake.
11.48am
The rotating blackouts in Tokyo, to ease pressure on the power grid, mean that life in the capital is anything but normal. Transportation systems are affected, and shops cannot process Eftpos transactions during blackout times. (NHK News)
11.30am
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has confirmed 1570 New Zealanders are safe and well in Japan. However, the ministry has specific concerns around the safety of two New Zealanders.
There have been no reports of New Zealand casualties or injuries, the ministry says.
MFAT is advising against all tourist and non-essential travel to Tokyo and the tsunami-affected areas in the Japan's northeast.
11.25am
Air New Zealand warned today the Christchurch and Japanese disasters meant it would not make a profit in the second half of the fiscal year, sending shares in the airline plummeting.
"The company does not expect to be profitable in the second half," it said in a statement, adding the impact of the Christchurch earthquake was more severe than expected and the disaster in Japan would also hit revenues.
Its share price fell 7.5 per cent on the news.
10.50am
The BBC reports how the Japanese disaster has reopened the nuclear debate in Europe and the United States.
10.35am
France's ASN nuclear safety authority says the accident in Japan could be classed as level 5 or 6 on the international scale of 1 to 7, on a par with the 1979 US Three Mile Island meltdown.
The severity estimate, based on ASN's assessment of data provided by Japan, is above the rating of 4 that Japan's nuclear safety agency has given the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi plant.
10.16am
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan says the government is setting up a joint response headquarters with the operator of a stricken nuclear reactor to better manage the crisis.
10.12am
Auckland Mayor Len Brown confirmed two Aucklanders teaching English at Tomioka, a sister city of Auckland, had left the city for a town 100km away. Both were safe but shaken, he said.
Auckland will send a condolence letter to all seven sister cities as they deal with the damage inflicted by Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami.
Councillor Arthur Anae and members of the Council's Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel attended Japan Day yesterday to express solidarity with Auckland's Japanese community.
9.45am
Japanese TV reports the official death toll from the tsunami disaster now stands at 1900, with 15,000 people still unaccounted for. A large number of fatalities are expected in the Miyagi prefecture.
9.26am
Google, Twitter and other technology companies are finding ways to help following last week's earthquake in Japan.
Google has an online "person finder" for people seeking information about a missing person.
Microsoft is offering free technical support and temporary software licenses to companies affected by the earthquake. It has also pledged $250,000 in cash.
Twitter is trying to help organise the flood of information flowing through its system. It is suggesting people use certain tags for general earthquake information, requests for rescue and other related topics.
Amazon and Yahoo have links on their home pages encouraging people to donate to the relief efforts.
9.02am
Japan's leading experts in rescue robotics are deploying wheeled and snake-like robots to assist emergency responders in the search for survivors of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the country last Friday.
8.30am
Technology firms are facing major disruption to supplies in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami.
Many of them have had to stop production to carry out safety checks and the prospect of rolling blackouts means further interruptions are likely over the coming weeks.
Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba and Canon are among the companies affected.
8.15am
The United States has sent a team of experts to assist Japan at the nuclear site, including two cooling experts.
8.00am
The uranium fuel rods at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant are "completely exposed" according to reports, raising the threat of a meltdown, hours after a hydrogen explosion tore through the building housing a different reactor.
Water levels were restored after the first decrease, but the rods remained partially exposed early today (NZ time), increasing the risk of the spread of radiation.
''The situation at the Fukushima plant continues to be a concern,'' said Japan's Prime Minister, Naoto Kan.
7.58am
Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami may cost the global insurance industry as much as $60 (NZ$81) billion, which would make the disaster the most expensive ever behind Hurricane Katrina, according to early estimates.
7.42am
The Australian Foreign Affairs ministry says it believes there have been no Australian casualties from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
7.32am
Roads and rail, power and ports have been crippled across much of the northeast of Japan's main island Honshu, hampering relief efforts. The government has mobilised 100,000 soldiers to deliver food, water and fuel. Around 70 countries have offered assistance and hundreds of foreign rescue workers are assisting quake and tsunami victims.
7.12am
America's president is again offering his full support to Japan.
Barack Obama says like all Americans, he continues to be heartbroken by the images of devastation in Japan.
He is reiterating America's support for the people of Japan, who he says are some of the US's closest friends and allies.
He has told Prime Minister Kan the United States will continue to offer any assistance it can as Japan recovers from multiple disasters.
7.00am
Japan has distributed 230,000 units of iodine to evacuation centres in the area around Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini nuclear power plants, according to officials. The iodine is a precautionary measure and has not yet been administered to residents, the International Atomic Energy Agency says. The ingestion of stable iodine can help to prevent the accumulation of radioactive iodine in the thyroid.

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