Japan Death Toll Expected to Top 18,000; Nuclear Workers Evacuated

As the cleanup from the devastating quake and tsunami continues, Japanese officials say the death toll is likely to exceed 18,000 -- with 15,000 of those in the prefecture of Miyagi alone. "It is very distressing as we recover more bodies day by days," said Police Spokesman Hitoshi Sugawara. The number of bodies recovered has reached 8649, and 13,262 more have been reported missing. Additionally, the World Bank has estimated that cleanup will cost $235 billion once the country begins rebuilding.

Meanwhile, brave Japanese crews working to fix the broken nuclear reactor at Fukushima were evacuated Monday, after plumes of grey smoke began leaking from a reactor, reports the AP. The setback came after pressure began rising unexpectedly in a third reactor after the first two seemed to be regulated, though the source of the smoke is currently under investigation. Staff is working furiously to stabilize the plant, but explosions coupled with the intricacies of the task have hampered the swiftness of the operation.

Radiation from the plant has already seeped into the food chain, and the Japanese government has banned spinach, milk and canola farmed from the surrounding areas. Earlier today, Early Monday, the Health Ministry advised Itate -- a village about 19 miles from Fukushima --  not to drink water from the tap, citing the presence of of iodine three times the normal levels. And while the Cabinet is advising the public not to panic over radiation in the food supply, saying its short-term effects were minimal, it's impossible not to think of the long-term effects of the Chernobyl disaster, which still impacts the environment 25 years later.


AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at March 21, 2011, 4:31am

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