Japan forges ahead with quake-relief efforts amid supplies shortage, nuclear reactor fire

13:49, March 16, 2011      

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Japan and the international community are continuing their quake-relief efforts in the disaster zone as a fresh fire broke out at a nuclear plant reactor and many Japanese are suffering from lack of food, water and medicine.

The National Police Agency said Friday's 9.0-magnitude catastrophic quake in northeastern Japan and the ensuing tsunami had left 3,373 people dead and 6,746 others unaccounted for by 8:00 p.m. (1100 GMT) Tuesday.

Around 530,000 evacuees are now living in more than 2,600 shelters in quake-hit areas.

The lack of food, drinking water, medicine and fuel has been a common problem in the areas, where basic supplies have been wiped out and communications infrastructure crippled.

The Japanese government is stepping up efforts to ship disaster relief supplies there.

The Bank of Japan Wednesday pumped another 3.5 trillion yen (43.3 billion U.S. dollars) into the financial system, adding to the trillions spent Monday and Tuesday to soothe shaken markets.

Meanwhile, a fire broke out again early Wednesday at the troubled No. 4 reactor of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Around 5:45 a.m. local time (2045 GMT), a new fire occurred in the northeastern corner of the reactor 4 building, where an apparent hydrogen explosion caused a fire Tuesday morning. Fire fighters were trying to put out the flames.

Since Friday, there have been explosions at several of the plant's reactor buildings.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday that radiation levels around the plant had "risen considerably," and his chief spokesman said they had reached the point that would endanger human health.

A UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team has arrived in Japan to help assess humanitarian needs there, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is continuing to monitor the situation at impacted nuclear plants.

"The team is based in Tokyo, helping with information management and with international offers of assistance to the Japanese government," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said Tuesday. "It plans to send a reconnaissance mission to the prefectures of Fukushima and Miyagi on Wednesday."

He also said Japan has asked the IAEA to send a technical support team to quake-hit nuclear plants, adding the IAEA is coordinating international support on the nuclear response to Japan through the Response Assistance Network.

The U.S. military said Tuesday that low-level radiation was detected at U.S. Navy bases in Japan, and more service members were found exposed to radioactive plumes.

The Navy advised personnel at Yokosuka and Sasebo bases to avoid outdoor activities, but vowed the relief mission in Japan would go on.

Meanwhile, more U.S. service members in the disaster zone tested positive for radiation. On Monday, radiation contamination was found in 17 USS Ronald Reagan air crew members who returned to the ship after conducting disaster relief missions near Sendai city.

China's embassy in Japan Tuesday called for an orderly evacuation of Chinese nationals from the areas worst hit by the quake and tsunami.

The embassy and the Chinese consulate in Niigata would send buses to four areas in Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki and Iwate prefectures to pick up Chinese nationals and help them return home.

So far, China hasn't yet received any casualty report of its citizens in Japan.

A fresh 6.4-magnitude quake jolted Shizuoka prefecture and its vicinity including Tokyo at 10:31 p.m. local time (13:31 GMT) Tuesday. No tsunami warning was issued, and no damage to nuclear power plants was reported.

Meanwhile, the world community is wasting no time in providing more assistance to Japan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Tuesday that China would continue to provide Japan with necessary assistance in accordance with the latter's needs.

A number of member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) extended relief aid to Japan, said a statement released by the ASEAN secretariat Tuesday.

The assistance has been offered in various forms, including cash, medical aid, food, and rescue efforts.

Cambodia has contributed 100,000 U.S. dollars for the relief of the victims.

Indonesia would deploy a 64-member team, equipped with medical supplies, to Japan.

Laos has also provided 100,000 dollars in emergency relief, agreed to set up a national committee to raise more funds and was ready to dispatch personnel.

The Philippines is prepared to deploy a search and rescue contingent.

Singapore has donated 500,000 Singapore dollars (395,257 dollars) to Japan. Meanwhile, a Singaporean rescue team is now in the quake-hit city of Soma in Fukushima prefecture.

Thailand, the world's largest rice exporter, has promised 15,000 tons of rice and over 6.5 million dollars' worth of assistance.

Vietnam, meanwhile, has decided to provide Japan with 200,000 dollars and was ready to send a medical team upon request.

The Cuban government Tuesday offered to send medical and rescue workers to Japan.

Also on Tuesday, the 65th session of the UN General Assembly observed a moment of silence for those killed in Japan's quake and tsunami.

Source: Xinhua

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