SITUATION REPORT: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Japan • Earthquake & Tsunami
Situation Report
15 March 2011


This report is produced by OCHA. It was issued by the Regional Office in Asia Pacific with input from the UNDAC team in Tokyo. It covers the period from 14-15 March.


• There has been a third explosion at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant
• Radiation from the nuclear plant has reached harmful levels within the evacuation zone
• Emergency relief operations enter into their fifth day with some areas still inaccessible
• Food, water and fuel are reported to be running short in some parts of Japan
• Significant areas of the country remain without power and water


It has been five days since the north east coast of Japan was devastated by a powerful tsunami triggered by one of the world‘s strongest earthquakes on record—now reported as magnitude 9.0. As a result of these two emergencies a third emergency, the threat of nuclear radiation emerged, which is proving to be the most difficult to deal with.


Despite the deteriorating nuclear emergency, humanitarian operations continue unaffected. Today Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered a shift of focus in humanitarian operations from rescue activities to provision of essential items to the affected areas.


Nearly 416,300 people have been evacuated from the earthquake and tsunami affected provinces, half of which are from Miyagi (203,953 people). Others are from Fukushima (131,665 people), Iwate (46,405 people), Ibaraki (22,595 people), Tochigi (9,530) and Aomori (2,143 people).


The Government of Japan has confirmed that 1,990 people have died, 1,885 people are injured and 2,369 people remain missing. National media is reporting that more than 15,000 people are unaccounted for in the affected areas. In Fukushima alone, 1,200 people are unaccounted for. The number will most likely increase further in the coming days. More than 10,000 people are stranded due to inundation from the tsunami waves and are unreachable in Iwate. An additional 1,000 are also stranded in Miyagi and Fukushima.


Around the northern coastal region of Tohoku, the number of damaged buildings continues to increase each day. As of 15 March, 3,385 buildings are destroyed and over 55,000 damaged either by earthquakes, tsunami or fire. Transportation systems still remain paralyzed but the Government is making significant progress to restore key roads, bridges and railways. The National Police Agency says at least 128 roads and 21 bridges damaged by the earthquake and tsunami have been repaired. Essential services such as electricity, gas and water remain disrupted, with more than 843,000 households serviced by Tokyo Electric Power Company and Tohoku Electric Power Company experiencing power shortages. Some 1.4 million households still remain without water. It’s important to note that people without water and electricity extend well beyond the four most affected prefectures. This emergency is having an impact on people across the country.


The threat of continued aftershocks and tsunami continues to affect emergency operations in northeast Japan. Friday’s earthquake shifted the entire island of Honshu two and a half metres. The ground also sunk by about 72 centimetres along the coastal areas of Iwate and Fukushima prefectures, and seawalls sustained extensive damage. With the National Meteorological Agency predicting a 70-percent chance of another 7-magnitude earthquake by the end of the week, the concern is that many buildings are already weakened and coastal areas are most vulnerable with no sea walls to protect them against another tsunami.


Snow and rain is also forecast from the evening of 15 March until the 17 March in the earthquake and tsunami affected areas and is likely to impact road conditions and affect humanitarian access to the disaster-hit areas. Cold conditions in Tokyo are also expected to increase demand for heating energy at a time that there are electricity shortages due to power rationing.


Meanwhile, the nuclear reactor emergency further south has deteriorated significantly. A third explosion occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on the morning of 15 March exposing nuclear fuel rods for several hours. Within three hours the amount of radiation at the plant rose to 163 times the previously recorded level, according to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. Elsewhere radiation levels were said to have reached 400 times the “annual legal limit” at reactor No. 3. Subsequently, a fire erupted at reactor No. 4 of the Fukushima Daini plant and a hydrogen explosion occurred at No. 4 reactor as well. The Government has ordered a no-fly zone 30 km around the plant, and Prime Minister Naoto Kan has expanded to 30 km the range within which people should remain indoors and warned that further leaks are possible. The Government has asked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to send a technical support team to affected area. The IAEA is coordinating international nuclear response support to Japan through Response and Assistance Network (RANET). A US expert team is supporting Japanese counterparts in dealing with the nuclear crisis.


The Government has deployed 100,000 troops to lead the relief effort. With the help of 9,500 fire-fighters and 920 police they have together rescued 22,184 people to date. In Miyagi, one of the most affected prefectures, which sustained the largest number of casualties and the largest number of evacuees, the National Police Agency and Japan Self-Defence Force have rescued more than 2,200 people to date. It has rescued stranded people and sick patients. In addition, the Japan Coast Guard, and Fire and Disaster Management Agency have rescued nearly 3,000 people, including about 970 affected people stranded in isolated villages. Various national agencies have provided personnel mobilised from prefectures mostly outside of the Tohoku region for this relief operation. The National Police Agency has mobilised 1,115 police officers and 7 helicopters. The Fire and Disaster Management Agency has provided 2,588 personnel including 19 air units. 31 Disaster Medical Assistance Teams (DMAT) have been operating at the Sendai Medical Centre.


The main humanitarian needs continue to be food, drinking water, blankets, latrines, fuel and medical items which the Government and private sector in Japan are urgently mobilizing to the affected areas. More than a quarter of the planned food delivery has now reached the affected areas (more than 550,140 meals of bread, instant noodles and rice balls). Nearly 119,000 water bottles, 117,000 blankets and 130 latrines and 288,000 litres of fuel have been transported as well.