Update 4: Thursday, 21st April 2011
On Thursday Japan got shaken again by a strong earthquake. The epicenter of the quake of magnitude 6 was off the coast of Chiba prefecture at a depth of 70 kilometers east of the capital Tokyo. The quake occurred at 22.37 o'clock (local time 15.37 GMT) and was palpable in the capital Tokyo. Up to now, there are no reports of casualties. A tsunami alert was not triggered.
Since the earthquake of magnitude 9.0 on 11 March, which triggered a devastating tsunami, there were hundreds of aftershocks in Japan. The provisional death toll of the earthquake and tsunami is at about 28,000 dead or missing.
Japan has declared the evacuation area with a radius of 20 kilometers around the damaged nuclear power plant in Fukushima a restricted zone. Prime Minister Naoto Kan, announced the decision on Thursday on a visit to the devastated disaster region in the north-east of the country. The prohibition to enter the zone should be implemented in the early hours of Friday according to the government .
The Police detected about 60 families who are still living in the area. Government spokesman Yukio Edano said the residents had been asked to leave the area because there is a significant health risk .
Update 3: Tuesday, 12th April 2011 Japanese authorities have revised the severity of the accident at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant to the highest level possible, putting it on par with the 1986 Chernobyl accident. Further Information: Update 2: Monday, 14th March 2011
The decision reflects the total release of radiation at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant, which is ongoing, rather than a sudden deterioration.
Update 3: Tuesday, 12th April 2011
Japanese authorities have revised the severity of the accident at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant to the highest level possible, putting it on par with the 1986 Chernobyl accident.
Update 2: Monday, 14th March 2011
The situation in Japan does not quiet down even three days after the devastating earthquake: the earthquake of magnitude 9.0 in northeastern Japan on Friday caused probleams in six nuclear power plants. In particular the cooling systems, which are key to preventing a meltdown, are inoperable. The government doubled the evacuation radius around Fukushima to 20 kilometers, more than 180,000 residents had to leave their homes on the weekend.
In the reactor block 3 of the Fukushima nuclear plant 1, another powerful hydrogen explosion occured on Monday morning, six workers have been injured. It was the second explosion since Saturday.
A huge cloud of smoke arose From the reactor block 3 of the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. According to a spokesman the inner reactor mantle remained intact. The detonation was felt 50 miles away from the nuclear plant in the coastal town of Soma.
Hours before, Tokyo was hit by a strong aftershock. With its magnitude of 6.2 it struck Tokyo shortly after 10 o'clock local time. According to the USGS Earthquake Observatory the epicenter was 140 kilometers north-east of the capital - in the direction of the nuclear plant in Fukushima.
As the agency Kyodo reported, 2000 further bodies have been found dead in the coastal area of Miyagi before the aftershock.
The authorities fear that by the earthquake of magnitude 9.0 (the magnitude has been upgraded from M8.9 to M9.0) and the subsequent tsunami over 10,000 people were killed. So far 1597 victims have been identified. According to official figures, 22 people suffered a radiation poisoning, and 190 came into contact with radioactivity.
In Tokyo and other Japanese cities electricity has been cut off for several hours on Monday, in order to compensate the reduced nuclear power generation. A fifth of the 55 Japanese nuclear plants are out of order at this time. 1.9 million households are affected by the blackouts. Many people had to forego other basic needs: At least 1.4 million homes are cut off from water supply up to now.
The economic impact of the disaster is huge: Japan's central bank injected a record 7 trillion yen ($85.5 billion) into money markets and the Tokyo stock market nosedived Monday on the first business day since the tragedy.
The stock market plunged over 6 percent and one economist put the cost of the disaster at between 14 trillion yen ($171 billion) and 15 trillion yen just to the quake-hit region.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average fell 487 points, or 4.8 percent, to 9,767.18. Worries about the economic impact of the disaster triggered a broad sell-off that hit all sectors.
The Bank of Japan moved quickly to try to keep financial markets stable. By flooding the banking system with cash, it hopes banks will continue lending money and meet the likely surge in demand for post-earthquake funds.
Immediately after the earthquake, the central bank pledged to “do its utmost,” including providing liquidity. A one-day policy meeting was scheduled for later Monday.
Preliminary estimates put repair costs from the earthquake and tsunami in the tens of billions of dollars – a huge blow for an economy that lost its place as the world's No. 2 to China last year, and has already been in a fragile state prior to the disaster.
Japan's economy has been ailing for 20 years, barely managing to eke out weak growth between slowdowns, saddled by a massive public debt that, at 200 percent of gross domestic product, is the biggest among industrialized nations.
Tens of billions of dollars are expected to be needed to rebuild homes, roads and other infrastructure – requiring public spending that will add to the national debt.
Best way to help the victims in Japan is by a donation:
JNTO JAPAN TRAVEL ADVISORY
We are grateful for the warm support and thoughts from many people after the historic earthquake in Japan on March 11. While painstaking rescue and recovery efforts continue in the severely struck Tohoku region, the capital city Tokyo has been recovering from a strong shock, and the western Japan is unharmed. Both Narita and Haneda airports have been reopened, although public transportation in and around Tokyo has been recovered only partially. Some events have been canceled under the current situation, and we strongly recommend reconfirmation of the event schedule. Other popular destinations such as Kyoto, Osaka, Sapporo, Kanazawa and Hiroshima, didn’t receive any impact from the earthquake.
Tohoku Region: Tohoku is the hardest hit region. With no recovery of public transportation systems and continuous aftershocks, it is extremely difficult to travel to this region. Due to the nuclear power plant accident after the earthquake, it is strongly advised to refrain from traveling to Fukushima as well as to follow the updates.
Tokyo and Surrounding Areas: Despite the brief recovery of the public transportation networks, periodical blackouts have been imposed for power conservation, causing train delays and cancellation. Some hotels and other businesses shorten the business hours, and it is recommended to refer their updates in advance. This region may also experience some aftershocks.
Other Regions: Hokkaido, Kansai, Chugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu are unharmed, and tourism facilities and transportation service are operated as usual.
For visitors currently traveling in Japan, the Tokyo Headquarters of Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) provides around-the-clock information service at the Tourist Information Center (TIC):
TIC in Tokyo
Service in English, Chinese and Korean
The 24-hour service is available for the duration of current crisis
Please note that due to the intensive recovery effort, travel information is updated frequently. Please refer to multiple sources for latest information.
Japan National Tourism Organization Tokyo Headquarters
JNTO’s Crisis Notice
The Embassy of Japan
Update 1: Friday, 11th March 2011 Evening
As expected the number of victims increased further. In Sendai, the big city in the north-east of the country, where the center of the quake was located several Japanese news agencies are reporting 200-300 deaths and hundreds of people missing.
Meanwhile the extensions of the tsunami have reached the coast of the US State Hawaii, but fortunately had no destructive force anymore. According to the authorities, they reached a height of 50 to 70 centimeters.
On Friday morning, 11th of March, a major M8.9 earthquake hit northern Japan. According to the United States Geological Survey, the epicenter was 373 kilometers away from the national capital Tokyo, where inhabitants could feel the tremors. The quake occurred in a depth of 10 kilometers about 125 kilometers off from the eastern coast. It triggered a 4 meter tsunami wave that swept tons of debris, ships and cars inland. The wave destroyed farmland and houses along the coast.
Officials try to assess deaths and injuries, which is, owing to the exceptional situation, impossible at the moment. But it is confirmed that many people died due to falling debris. The damages are significant: Fires are burning out of control along the coastal area and a major power outage affected Tokyo; about 4 million inhabitants were without electricity. People escaped to the streets and tried to reach relatives and friends via mobile phone. Furthermore there is high alert level in several nuclear power stations in the country. Preparations for a nuclear accident are already made.
The danger of further and even more fatal tsunamis terrifies the victims of the natural disaster. Tsunami warnings were already issued for 20 countries in the whole Pacific area including Japan, Guam, Taiwan, Russia, Indonesia and the United States of America. Experts expect waves up to 10 meters that could destroy regions which are far away from the epicenter.
This major M8.9 earthquake was the latest in a series of earthquakes that have occurred this week. On Wednesday and Thursday, a M7.2 and a M6.3 quake struck off Honshu. The Japanese government categorized this earthquake as one of the most terrifying quakes in Japan’s history.