Open Thread & News Round-Up: Japan

Here's some of what I've been reading this morning...

BBC—Japan holds minute silence one week on from quake: "Japan has paused for a minute [of] silence one week on from the earthquake and tsunami that has devastated the country."

CNN—Japan's death toll climbs to nearly 7,000: "Japan documented more deaths Friday as Prime Minister Naoto Kan sought to reassure a nation reeling from disaster, saying that he is committed to taking firm control of a 'grave' situation. Japanese paused at the one-week mark following the monster earthquake and ensuing tsunami as the death toll continued its steady climb to 6,911, the National Police Agency reported. Another 10,316 people are missing."

GuardianJapanese earthquake takes heavy toll on aging population:
The devastating impact of the Japanese earthquake on the country's ageing population was exposed on Thursday as dozens of elderly people were confirmed dead in hospitals and residential homes as heating fuel and medicine ran out.

In one particularly shocking incident, Japan's self-defence force discovered 128 elderly people abandoned by medical staff at a hospital six miles from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant. Most of them were comatose and 14 died shortly afterwards. Eleven others were reported dead at a retirement home in Kesennuma because of freezing temperatures, six days after 47 of their fellow residents were killed in the tsunami. The surviving residents of the retirement home in Kesennuma were described by its owner, Morimitsu Inawashida, as "alone and under high stress". He said fuel for their kerosene heaters was running out.

Almost a quarter of Japan's population are 65 or over, and hypothermia, dehydration and respiratory diseases are taking hold among the elderly in shelters, many of whom lost their medication when the wave struck, according to Eric Ouannes, general director of Doctors Without Borders' Japan affiliate.

This comes after Japan's elderly people bore the brunt of the initial impact of the quake and tsunami, with many of them unable to flee to higher ground.
National GeographicJapan Needs Our Help: "Thousands of people are dead or missing after a deadly earthquake and tsunami shattered much of Japan last Friday. Families have been torn apart, homes and settlements have been destroyed—and now a nuclear disaster threatens the survivors. Governments and international institutions are sending relief aid, rescue teams, and nuclear experts to help Japan in its hour of need. But individuals can also help. Here are some ways to do something for the people of Japan."

CNN—Agency: Japanese nuclear crisis on par with 3 Mile Island: "Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency raised the level for the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant Friday from a 4 to 5—putting it on par with the 1979 incident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island. ... Despite the more serious assessment, no expansion of the 12.4-mile (20 kilometer) evacuation zone was necessary, Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy head of the nuclear agency, said at a briefing Friday."

National GeographicJapan Reactors, Seen From Space: "Satellite pictures reveal damage."

New York TimesRadiation Spread Seen; Frantic Repairs Go On: "The first readings from American data-collection flights over the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northeastern Japan show that the worst contamination has not spread beyond the 19-mile range of highest concern established by Japanese authorities."

CNN—West Coast officials, Obama: Don't worry about radiation risk in US:
Radiation from the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan will dissipate over the more than 5,000 miles separating it from California, but eventually it may be detected in small, non-harmful amounts, said Dr. Howard Backer, interim director of the state Department of Public Health.

"We do not anticipate any amounts of radiation that will cause any health effects," Backer said Thursday.

In Washington, President Barack Obama went further in telling Americans not to worry.

"Whether it's the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska or U.S. territories in the Pacific, we do not expect harmful levels of radiation," Obama said. "That's the judgment of our Nuclear Regulatory Commission and many other experts."
WSBT—Flight from Tokyo sets off O'Hare radiation detectors: "In the last 24 hours, several radiation alarms went off in airports in Chicago, Dallas and Seattle. But according to the Dept of Homeland Security, it was because of the cargo, not any of the passengers or their luggage. A spokesman for American Airlines says it was medical equipment that tripped radiation alarms in Dallas and Chicago."

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