News / Asia

Japan's Kan Faces Calls to Quit Over Handling of Disasters

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan attends a news conference in Tokyo, April 12, 2011
Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan attends a news conference in Tokyo, April 12, 2011
TEXT SIZE - +

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan is facing new calls for his resignation from senior opposition and ruling party lawmakers angered by his response to the country's earthquake and tsunami-triggered nuclear crisis.

Japan's main opposition Liberal Democratic Party leader Sadakazu Tanigaki said Thursday it was time for Kan to decide whether to resign because of what Tanigaki called the prime minister's poor handling of relief operations. He said continuing with Japan's current leadership would be "extremely unfortunate" for the Japanese people.

Kan's opponents initially refrained from criticizing him after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami hit the Pacific coast of Japan's Honshu island and crippled a nuclear plant on March 11. Since then, he has appealed for cross-party cooperation to help the country recover from its worst post-war disaster.

Intensified calls

Kan also faced a call for his departure Thursday from inside his ruling Democratic Party of Japan. Upper house speaker Takeo Nishioka said the prime minister must quit for failing to properly handle the triple disaster's aftermath. A day earlier, a DPJ rival of the prime minister, Ichiro Ozawa, criticized his crisis management.

Kan focused Thursday on reconstruction, chairing the first meeting of an expert panel appointed to draft an economic revival plan for the disaster zone. Panel leader Makoto Iokibe said reconstruction plans must have the support of the whole nation. He also suggested creating a special tax to pay for the efforts. The 15-member body is due to present its first proposals in June.

Japan's police agency said its latest casualty figures show the quake and tsunami killed about 13,500 people and left 14,700 others missing. Japanese police searching for the missing moved to within 10 kilometers of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant for the first time Thursday, wearing white, protective suits to shield them from radiation that has leaked from the facility since the disaster.

Climbing death toll

Officials say the team of 300 officers found 10 bodies in the debris of a tsunami-devastated town near the plant. Japanese media say about 1,000 bodies may be in the area.

Searchers had stayed out of the 10-kilometer zone because of high radiation levels, but authorities ordered them to recover bodies before they deteriorate to the point where they become a health hazard and impossible to identify.

Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko also made their first visit to the worst-hit areas Thursday, comforting survivors at two emergency shelters in the city of Asahi in Chiba Prefecture. The royal couple also plan to visit the disaster-affected prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima in the coming weeks.

At least 140,000 people are still living in shelters in the region after losing their homes to the earthquake and tsunami or evacuating a government-declared 20-kilometer exclusion zone around the Fukushima plant due to high radiation.

Emergency crews at the plant have been trying to pump out water that became contaminated after being doused on its reactors to keep them from overheating. Pumping out the radioactive water could help the crews to resume repair work aimed at restoring the reactors' original cooling systems to stop them from spewing radiation.

Continuing aftershocks

The Tokyo Electric Power Company that operates the plant said Thursday it is moving some equipment to higher ground after a series of strong aftershocks raised the risk of a new tsunami.

The latest strong aftershock came at about 6 a.m. local time Thursday, with a magnitude of 6.1. It was the fourth temblor since Monday with a magnitude of 6 or greater. Hundreds of aftershocks have rattled Japan's northeastern coast since last month's massive earthquake.

In a sign of the economic cost of the disasters, the Japanese government said the number of foreign visitors to the country plunged 50 percent in March from a year earlier, to 352,800 people.

The Japan National Tourism Board attributed the drop to media reports about the catastrophe and warnings by some foreign governments to their nationals to avoid travel to Japan.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid