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

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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid