Japan Earthquake: Focus Shift

By Paul Pennay
Published: 2011-03-18

One week after a deadly tsunami annihilated sections of Japan's northeastern coastline and wiped whole seaside towns off the map, the glare of the world's media attention has now shifted away from footage of surging 15-meter waves of water washing cars away, to focus instead on developments at the badly damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant.

The welfare of the hundreds of thousands of residents left homeless and destitute in the wake of the disaster and the huge operation that has been launched to avert an even greater humanitarian disaster, seem to have been relegated to a page-two story.

As for the search and rescue workers, chances of recovering any survivor among the huge piles of debris has become increasing slim as a week has passed by. In addition, weather conditions in some of the worst hit disaster zones have gradually worsened, making things even harder for rescue teams.

Despite that, tens of thousands of Japanese self-defense troops, reservists, emergency service personnel and overseas rescue teams continue to search for survivors, but at the same time, they have also channeled some of their resources to restore essential services to the most severely-damaged parts of the country.

As of Thursday evening, the death toll is expected to exceed 10,000, with 5,547 people already confirmed dead and an additional 9,508 registered as missing.

More than 440,000 people have been evacuated to make-shift shelters established in army barracks, schools and other public spaces.

Although the number of people without electricity has fallen to 451,786 households compared to 850,000 earlier in the week - another 2.5 million households still don't have access to water.

More than 100,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed in the disaster - most of them by the tsunami. There are also reports that there are still hundreds of people in isolated areas that are waiting for help.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has also ordered the construction of 600 temporary shelters to be built within two weeks 4,200 shelters in four weeks and 30,000 shelters in two months.