News / Asia

Japanese Struggling to Find Food and Water in Disaster Area

People look for food amid empty shelves in a shop in Fukushima on March 13, 2011.
People look for food amid empty shelves in a shop in Fukushima on March 13, 2011.
Sean Maroney

Officials with Japan's nuclear safety agency said early Sunday morning there is an emergency at another nuclear reactor at a quake-hit power plant.  The agency says the cooling system at the number three reactor at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is offline and could possibly explode, following Saturday's blast at the plant's number one reactor.  

Reports quoting government officials say up to 160 people may have been exposed to radiation.  Meanwhile, residents in the country's northeast are struggling to find food and clean water.

Aftershocks continued to hit northeastern Japan Sunday, several days after a 8.9-magnitude earthquake and resulting 10-meter-high tsunami devastated the coastline.  

VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is near the power plant.  He says locals are complaining that the authorities are not giving them accurate information about the situation fast enough. "One of the things the authorities are trying to do is not have any panic spreading among people, but information about what is happening is coming out of Tokyo not Fukushima," he said.

Herman says authorities still have not determined how much damage the country's coastline communities have suffered. "Japan just has countless little farming communities and fishing communites.  And it is these fishing communities that have really taken the horrible hit up and down the northeastern Pacific coast.  There is obviously just hundreds, if not thousands, of these types of towns and villages that have been totally or partly destroyed," he said.

The final death toll could range from the thousands to tens of thousands, depending on how many of these communities are gone.

VOA reporters managed to travel to Fukushima by plane, but many airports, roads and railways remain flooded or damaged throughout Japan.

Herman says that because of this, people are scrambling to find basic necessities, even in inland areas such as Fukushima. "People are just trying to find clean water.  Food supplies are running out.  In the convenience stores, there are no rice balls left.  There is no bottled water left.  We are facing a really serious situation in the days ahead for these people that are living in areas that were only moderately damaged," he said.

Overall, analysts say Japan could have fared much worse in the disaster.

Tokyo has invested billions of dollars into making the country as earthquake-proof as possible.  Architects specially design high-rise buildings to flex in a quake.  Tsunami warning signs and large seawalls line the Japanese coast.  Even schoolchildren practice drills on what to do during an earthquake.

However in the end, analysts say that no amount of human preparedness is foolproof against the power of nature.

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