Japan quake live blog: Death toll rises as scattered reconstruction efforts begin
A shopper looks over nearly empty shelves Saturday at a grocery store in Senmaya, Japan.
March 19th, 2011
10:45 PM ET

Japan quake live blog: Death toll rises as scattered reconstruction efforts begin

A magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit northern Japan on March 11, triggering tsunamis that caused widespread devastation and crippled a nuclear power plant. Are you in an affected area? Send an iReport. Read the full report on the quake's aftermath and check out our interactive explainer on Japan's damaged nuclear reactors.

[10:45 p.m. Saturday, 11:45 a.m. Sunday in Tokyo] Construction of temporary housing for displaced people began this weekend with 200 units destined for the devastated coastal city of Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, The Japan Times reported. The prefabricated houses can accommodate two to three people and will be built on the grounds of a junior high school.

[10:40 p.m. Saturday, 11:40 a.m. Sunday in Tokyo] The death toll has reached 7,700, according to Japan National Police. At least 11,651 are missing and 2,612 are injured.

[9:00 p.m. Saturday, 10:00 a.m. Sunday in Tokyo] Water spraying at Fukushima's number 4 reactor has ended, Kyodo News reports.

[8:25 p.m. Saturday, 9:25 a.m. Sunday in Tokyo] Self-defense forces have begun water spraying at Fukushima's number 4 reactor, Kyodo News reports.

[7:18 p.m. Saturday, 8:18 a.m. Sunday in Tokyo] As Japan starts its day Sunday, concerns remain on the impact of radiation after trace amounts were found in spinach and milk near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Meanwhile, searches continue for nearly 12,000 missing, and more than 7,600 people have been confirmed dead.

[5:24 p.m. Saturday, 6:34 a.m. Sunday in Tokyo] The water temperature is dropping in the spent fuel rod pool of the number 5 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, NHK reports. Tokyo Electric Power Company restored a power generator at the number 6 reactor on Saturday morning. One of the two generators at the number 6 reactor has been used since the quake to cool the spent fuel rod pools of the number 5 and number 6 reactors.

[2:24 p.m. Saturday, 3:34 a.m. Sunday in Tokyo] Six members of the emergency crew at the plant have been exposed to more than 100 millisieverts of radiation per hour, the equivalent of getting 10 chest x-rays per hour, plant owner Tokyo Electric Power Company said. The utility said the workers were exposed when trying to restore electricity to the stricken reactors in hopes of using the cooling systems again.

[11:22 a.m. ET Saturday, 12:22 a.m. Sunday in Tokyo] The March 11 earthquake shifted Japan's Oshika Peninsula near the epicenter by 17 feet and dropped it by 4 feet, the Geospatial Information Authority in Tsukuba, Japan, reported Saturday. Those two land mass movements are records for Japan, according to government figures.

[10:19 a.m. Saturday, 11:19 p.m. Saturday in Tokyo] The Japanese government halted the sale of all food from farms near a tsunami-affected nuclear plant Saturday after abnormally high levels of radiation were found in milk and spinach.

[6:48 a.m. ET Saturday, 7:48 p.m. Saturday in Tokyo] Japan's National Police Agency said Saturday evening that 7,348 people are confirmed dead, 10,947 have been reported missing and 2,603 were injured.

[6 a.m. ET Saturday, 7 p.m. Saturday in Tokyo] CNN crews in Tokyo report feeling strong aftershocks.

[5:50 a.m. ET Saturday, 6:50 p.m. Saturday in Tokyo] Japan's National Police Agency said Saturday afternoon that 7,320 people are confirmed dead and 11,370 have been reported missing following last week's earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The agency also  said 2,618 people have been injured.

[3:41 a.m. ET Saturday, 4:41 p.m. Saturday in Tokyo] Abnormally high levels of radiation have been detected in samples of spinach and milk from Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters Saturday afternoon.

The recorded levels in the milk and spinach, both of which came from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima and Ibaraki, were over the limit stipulated in Japan's food safety law, according to Edano.

However, he stressed the levels were not extremely high: A person who consumed these products continuously for a year, Edano said, would take in the same amount of radiation as that of a single CT scan.

[1:53 a.m. ET Saturday, 2:53 p.m. Saturday in Tokyo] Tokyo's fire department is spraying seawater in and around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's No. 3 unit using a self-operating, long-running new system, authorities said Saturday.

The unmanned system, which began working for the first time around 2 p.m. Saturday, can spray seawater for up to seven hours at a time to aid the ongoing effort to cool the reactor's spent nuclear pool.

Previously, firefighters, soldiers and power company workers have made several missions - in abbreviated intervals to guard against individuals' prolonged exposure to radiation - for this same purpose.

[1:32 a.m. ET Saturday, 2:32 p.m. Saturday in Tokyo] Workers at the embattled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant can be exposed to up to 250 millisieverts of radiation before they'd have to leave the facility, a Tokyo Electric Power Co. official told CNN on Saturday afternoon, more than double the allowed reading in place earlier day.

An individual in a developed country is naturally exposed to about 3 millisieverts of radiation a year.

The International Commission on Radiological Protection recommends no more than 50 millisieverts exposure in a given year for nuclear rescue and recovery workers. It offers no restriction in a crisis when "the benefit to others clearly outweighs the rescuer's risk."

Tokyo Electric had originally set a maximum radiation exposure threshold of 100 millisieverts before raising that level to 150 millisieverts, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

[1:10 a.m. ET Saturday, 2:10 p.m. Saturday in Tokyo] Workers have drilled three holes apiece in the ceilings of the Nos. 5 and 6 nuclear reactors at the embattled Fukushima Daiichi power plant in order to alleviate pressure, a Tokyo Electric Power Co. official said.

This was done to release hydrogen gas and steam, whose buildup contributed to explosions at the plants Nos. 1, 2 and 3 units. Experts say the emission of hydrogen gas may be an indication of a partial nuclear meltdown, which may happen when nuclear fuel rods inside are not fully covered by water.

There have been no such explosions at the plant's Nos. 5 and 6 units.

Japanese authorities have said that a diesel generator is now powering a cooling system for those two reactors.

soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. Philip

    @hilo Hi...as if the gulf was clean before the deepwater horizon disaster. the frikken Mississippi River has been polluting the gulf for decades on a scale Shell/BP can only imagine. We have ultra-safe and environmentally resposnsible ways of drilling as I explained above. Greedy men don't like using them for fear it will reduce profits. Our problem isn't lack of technology. We just need men of integrity to allow us use of these techniques. Our leaders, both corporate and political...they only pretend to be concerned. in reality, they are laughing at US all the way to the bank that we just bailed out.(for your info: the gulf "leak" only accounts for a small percentage of oil leaking into the gulf from the tens of thousands of other gulf wells. But you won't hear a word about this from our leaders or their media talking heads)

    March 19, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Hilo, HI

      Phil, your assessment of the Gulf damage is just plain wrong. Yes, the US gluttony for meat -cattle waste #1 pollutant of Gulf Prior to spill from Mississippi River run-off, as weel as chemical fertilizers and pesticides -left a "Dead Zone" the size of TX -now it's the whole thing.
      I agree 100%, our energy & fuel should not be run by profiteers (Oversight is a joke -the MMS, DC's 'watchdog' for rig/well safety & compliance was staffed w/ former industry insiders, including from BP/Halliburton/TransOcean), but I disagree these are our only options so we must find a way to make them work. These profiteers have been thwarting research in alternatives from day 1.

      March 19, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Philip

    And don't think I didn't notice that none of you take issue with Halliburton bribing African leaders to allow access to the peoples oil. (Just like slave traders from Arab countries, Europe, the USA, etc. used to do in order to procure slaves)

    March 19, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff in Virginia

      great job there, attacking people for not criticizing some issue that you pulled out of the air.

      March 19, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  3. Robert Gammon

    Coal fired power plants emit more radiation to the surrounding land over its operating life than any US nuclear plant to date, including the radiation release at TMI.

    NHK notes that the backup diesel generator at Power plant #5/6 has been restarted and water is flowing thru the spent fuel pods at both reactors.

    A ladder truck with a 22m arm is being deployed to allow remote spraying of the damaged #3 and #4 reactors without humans being present on the trucks (all day spraying)

    Reactor temps on all observable reactors now below 100C. Core temps appear to have dropped as expected once the control rods were inserted when the quake warning was sounded.

    March 19, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff in Virginia

    updates that are 3 hours apart, like this morning or yesterday afternoon do not make a "live blog"

    March 19, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
  5. Philip

    Great job there criticizing someone without naming who.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  6. FreshxWater

    Why weren't diesel generators helicoptered in on Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4...? CH 47 load is 19,500 lbs, easily lifting generators.

    Tokyo is only 200Km. A ship carrying a generator could have made it to Fukushima in 1/2 day.

    The 5 man crew in my small town electric company string 1 mile of line in a day. Why wasn't this task started on Day 1?

    Of the pictures released of Fukushima plant, I see NO EVIDENCE of the Tsunami reaching the plant. No mud/debris/water lines. No junk scattered on top of things around the plant. (Only the explosion's debris.

    For Americans watching crime shows their entire lives, it sure seems Americans have NOT learned the most basic detective skills. I give no EXCUSE for the Corporate Reporters for not asking these questions!

    March 19, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark from Ohio

      Very nice comments, indeed. "Shell-shock" syndrome? Too much fear to think logically? But I disagree on the tsunami, the photos I've seen seem to show "brown" everywhere around the plant, similar to the "brown" (mud) shown in other areas after the tsunami. The plant itself, is built very strongly, of concrete-reinforced steel like the 3-story buildings which remained standing. And since it was at the coast, there was no debris to damage it or be left behind. Undoubtedly, damage still occurred, however we haven't seen any photos close enough to see any detail.

      In 1970, Engineer 1: "I know, lets design these reactors so we can pull the fuel rods out and place them on the roof for cooling over a number of years. Sound like a good idea?"
      Engineer 2: "Sure! Lets put them in a fissionable pattern, and use circulating chilled water to keep them from blowing up..."

      March 19, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Philip

    Why destroy the entire reactor? So what if people die or have children born with defects for the next few generations. We're used to it, as are those who survived Chernobyl, 3-Mile Island, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, etc.

    March 19, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  8. Christine

    Question!!! There has been some information about possible travel of radiation through the atmosphere. What about the water that is leaking from the plants? Won't it be going into the ocean? What will happen regarding radioactive contamination of the ocean?

    March 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • MS in Irvine

      In the 1950s the US contaminated 10s of thousands of square miles in the Pacific Ocean with above ground nuclear bomb tests. Although extremely lethal at first, apparently the ecology recovered within a few years. Almost all nuclear fission products have half lives of less than 100 years. Most commonly found isotopes from a Uranium, Plutonium reactor would have much shorter half lives. It can also be mentioned that the as the decay continues the radiation levels decrease fairly quickly. There are of course some fission products with very long half lives but as others have mentioned low level background radiation is not extremely harmful. One thing to keep in mind is that an airplane trip from LA to NY exposes you to more gamma rays than a full series of dental x-rays in a typical exam.

      March 19, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christine

      Thank you for that info. I don't understand the science any more than the average American, but wouldn't the emissions from the bomb testing have been mostly released into the air? Wouldn't there be a difference with radioactive water being released into the ocean?

      March 19, 2011 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. FreshxWater

    CEOs, executives, and board members from Tokyo Electric and GE should be the ones working in the plant now. This should be written INTO LAW. It's the only way you'll get corporations to follow proper safety procedures.
    PS. Add in the Banker CEOs who finance the projects!
    Google:Thom Hartmann: It's a bigger nuclear disaster then you think!
    DO NOT WATCH if you think you'll PANIC

    March 19, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mark from Ohio

    To think... all of this could have been avoided, if they simply had built the diesel generators with 50-foot-tall air-intake tubes, or designed them to shut down if water was detected, before being destroyed. Hindsight is always 20/20...

    March 19, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. FreshxWater

    We've listened/seen the Republicans spend $400,000,000,000 to protect America from the worst possible event "A dirty BOMB of radioactive waste". Now I see the same Talking Heads and obviously Republican posters in news forums... say that the 4 nuclear reactors blowing up and on fire is NO PROBLEM. What shills!

    March 19, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. leeintulsa

    Alt energy – Here's an Okie story. Between here and Pawhuska there's a place called windmill farm. Huge strech of land, no tellin how deep. There's a big hill by the road with a lone old-timey windmill. The rest is dotted with oil pumps. How unsightly.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Roberta

    Vote-Let the people Vote-Recycle Nuclear Power Plants Now

    Take inventory and look at how we can downsize and downgrade all nuclear reactors.

    March 19, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lance Spencer

    Hello! 70% of the earth is covered with fuel – Salt water. You can literally burn salt water.
    A 900Mhz frequency applied to salt water causes the separation of Oxygen and Hydrogen. You can
    literally light a match above a glass of salt water in a 900Mhz field and it will stay lit like a candle as the hydrogen burns off.

    March 19, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • wowie

      Of course it takes more energy to do that than it creates, but... it works with GOP math though.

      March 19, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Survivor Man 54

    Trying to do something

    –> http://www.youtube.com/user/race2save?feature=mhum

    March 19, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
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