Japan disaster: Latest updates

By NZ Herald staff

4.34pm
That concludes our latest updates for today.

3.35pm
Japanese police estimate the toll from the twin disasters will exceed 18,000 deaths.

3.12pm
Japan's police agency says more than 8,600 people are dead and 12,800 are listed as missing after last week's earthquake and tsunami.
A week and a half after the disasters devastated the northeast coast, the National Police Agency said Monday that the number of bodies collected so far stood at 8,649, while 12,877 people were listed as missing.
The death toll is steadily rising as searchers find bodies in the wasteland left behind by the powerful quake and the massive tsunami it unleashed. The tsunami likely swept many bodies out to sea, as it did in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, when many of the dead were never found.
The tallies of dead and missing are likely to overlap. Many of the bodies collected so far have not yet been identified, police say. So it is likely many of the unidentified bodies will match names on the missing list once their identities are confirmed.
2.58pm
A report on CNN, 'Finding faith amid disaster', takes a look at the theological side of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

2.50pm
Poster Cause Artists present the Japan Earthquake Relief Print Series. A number of new prints are available for purchase with 75 per cent of profits going to support Doctors Without Borders' earthquake and disaster relief efforts for Japan.

2.30pm
Horse racing is tremendously popular in Japan. Dubai Race Night points out that three talented Japanese runners will be competing in next weekend's $10 million Dubai World Cup, and any success will certainly be welcomed by the Japanese people, considering what they've been through lately.
"They deserve something to cheer for, and will get an opportunity to do that this weekend", the website said.

2.25pm
Wind and light rain over Japan's stricken nuclear-power reactors are blowing from the northwest out to the Pacific Ocean, the weather agency says, sparing Tokyo from low levels of radiation.
The weather is important for gauging if traces of radiation leaking from the plant will reach heavily populated areas or enter the food chain, although local authorities and health experts say the leaks so far pose no threats to human health, Reuters reported.
2.05pm
Several Australian superannuation funds have given up gains made early in the year, as the Japan earthquake disaster and Middle East conflicts weigh on financial markets.
SuperRatings estimates the median balanced fund was up more than 9 per cent in the year to February, but has lost around 2 per cent so far in March.
SuperRatings managing director Jeff Bresnahan told ABC News global events have increased volatility and dented returns in the short-term.
1.58pm
Workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said they were "resigned to death" when the 9-magnitude quake struck on March 11.
One worker told NHK World he was working at unit 4 when he heard a "roar" and the lights cut out.
He said the water in the spent fuel storage pool drenched everyone.
"I thought I was going to die," he said through a translator.
1.40pm
If so many adults are struggling to comprehend the extent of the disaster that has struck Japan, what chance do kids have?
To help in that regard, here's a list of 10 ways you can help kids better cope with the trauma of the crisis in Japan.
1.10pm
A nuclear industry whistleblower who helped design protective containment vessels for reactors has attacked the Japanese government, its nuclear industry and regulators over their safety record.
Dr Masashi Goto, a nuclear engineer, resigned from his job at the Toshiba Corporation over safety concerns.
Dr Goto criticises his country's record on nuclear safety. The ABC Four Corners story is here.
1.00pm
Here's a time-lapse Japan quake map, showing all the seismic activity in the region since the big earthquake on March 11.
The site has been built by Paul Nicholls, developer of the Christchurch Quake Map website.
12.52pm
Workers began to see some success in their battle to cool down reactors at the quake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant today, but Japanese officials said they may need to release additional radioactive gas into the air, CNN reported.
The plant's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., said electricity was being supplied to a switchboard in reactor No. 2.
But officials said they were monitoring reactor No. 3 to determine whether to release gas to reduce mounting pressure in the containment vessel - the steel and concrete shell that insulates radioactive material inside.
11.46am
Official tolls of the dead and missing are rising steadily - to 8,450 and 12,931 respectively as of 11am (NZT) this morning.
Those figures could jump dramatically since police say they believe more than 15,000 people had been killed in the Miyagi prefecture, one of four that took the brunt of the tsunami.
11.40am
Financial analysts have been closely monitoring the Japanese sharemarket since the earthquake and tsunami disaster. However, there will be no reports today from the Nikkei Index; Tokyo's markets are closed for a public holiday in Japan.
11.00am
Japan's Health Ministry says tests have detected additional types of radiation-tainted vegetables, suggesting that contamination from its tsunami-crippled nuclear complex is reaching further into the food chain.
Ministry official Yoshifumi Kaji said tests found excess amounts of radioactive elements on canola and chrysanthemum greens, in addition to spinach. He said the areas where the tainted produce was found included three prefectures that previously had not recorded such contamination.
The government ordered shipments of milk from Fukushima, where the plant is located, to be halted after finding tainted milk at 37 farms.
10.35am
US Energy Secretary Steven Chu suggested today that Japan's nuclear crisis might make it less likely that new nuclear reactors are built near large American cities.
Chu was speaking in response to questions about the Indian Point nuclear plant near New York City. "Any time there is a serious accident, we have to learn from those accidents and go forward."
US officials are said to be reviewing reactor safety.
10.30am
American History X actor Edward Norton is helping the victims of the Japan quake and tsunami.
Norton is assisting via his website Crowdrise.com. He's hoping to raise $500,000 for disaster relief, which will be matched by a wealthy Japanese family.

9.42am
Family and friends of an Alaska man who was teaching English in Japan haven't given up hope that he will be found alive.
26-year-old Monty Dickson lived in Rikuzentakata and worked as part of the JET programme at Yonesaki elementary and junior highs.
Dickson hasn't been heard from since the disaster. His area was destroyed by the tsunami following the devastating earthquake.
The young teacher was able to call his girlfriend from the town's city hall, but that three storey building was later covered by the waves. Other reports put Dickson at one of the schools in the area.

8.55am
About 360,000 evacuees continue to endure cold weather today as relief materials from overseas arrive in Japan.
The relief materials from 13 countries include 25,000 blankets from Canada, 30,000 packets of boil-in-the-bag fried rice and 230,000 water bottles from South Korea and 500 power generators from Taiwan.
The Self-Defence Forces, police and firefighting authorities have rescued 26,000 people so far. They continue their relief work, having mobilised 120,000 members.
8.40am
A group of boys have been working tirelessly since the tsunami struck their city, to gather food for people at evacuation shelters, in this video from Al Jazeera.
8.20am
The United Nations atomic watchdog said today there had been positive developments in the past 24 hours at Japan's disaster-hit nuclear power plant but that the overall situation remained very serious.
Graham Andrew, a senior official of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), also said radiation levels in major Japanese cities had not changed significantly since Saturday and continued to be below dangerous levels.
8.10am
Cries of joy from embattled rescuers as an 80-year-old woman and her grandson are found alive amid the rubble of a quake-wrecked home in Japan, on the ninth day after the disaster. The pair were in the kitchen on the second storey of their home in Ishinomaki when the tsunami swept through. They ate scraps of food and shared a can of Coke to survive.
7.35pm Japanese authorities have raised the toll of the quake and tsunami to 20,000 dead and missing, with thousands more feared dead.
Around 8,277 people have been confirmed dead and 12,722 have been reported missing.
7.27pm Efforts to avert disaster at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continue as power has been restored to Unit 2 and the plant's operators will attempt to turn on its cooling systems to bring the overheating reactor under control.
Pressure in the unit 3 containment vessel, however, remains high but has stabilised, and the Tokyo Electric Power Company has decided against releasing gases from the reactor.
Units 5 and 6 have now been placed into cold shutdown, meaning the reactors are in a safe mode, with cooling systems stable and under control, and with low temperature and pressure within the reactor, Japanese officials say.
An operation to douse unit 4 with sea water was completed yesterday, with more than 100 tonnes of water sprayed on the unit - much of it reaching inside the damaged reactor.

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