Video: Tsunami makes heroes and victims of same family

  1. Closed captioning of: Tsunami makes heroes and victims of same family

    >>> now we turn to our ongoing coverage of the disaster in japan. the aftereffects of the quake, the tsunami, the continuing nuclear crisis. it's hard to believe, but air measurement devices here in the u.s. have detected trace amounts of radiation in the air, minuscule amounts to be sure. it came ashore first on the west coast where it was picked up in seattle and the canadian coast. now it's been measured in the eastern u.s. radiation has been found in the sea water near the nuclear plant as well as milk and vegetables from that region. at the fukushima nuclear plant power cables have been attached to six reactors. it could take days or weeks of safety checks before the water cooling systems are back up in operation. the human suffering from the crisis at that plant continues. chief science correspondent robert bazell reports again tonight from tokyo on one family that's been torn apart from this.

    >> reporter: 190 miles south of the reactors is a super arena, usually home to hockey, volleyball and tennis. now just home. a refuge for people. she wears a mask not against radiation but catching a cold. the morning after the quake, they fled their home with nothing.

    >> as i did not expect to be in the situation that i am in now. i did not bring anything with me.

    >> reporter: the bigger worry, she had to leave her husband behind because he works at the fukushima facility. she's worried, but also proud of his bravery. i asked him son to do his best. his father is doing his best to deal with the current crisis.

    >> reporter: about 2300 people are camped out here. some to escape the dangers of radiation, others who lost their homes in the earthquake and tsunami. there are bins with the items for every day living. toothbrushes, linens, diapers. the kinds of things people don't realize they left behind until they need it. so many volunteers are showing up, they can't take any more, they've reached their limit for the day. this woman says she couldn't watch and do nothing.

    >> translator: i felt the urge to want to help. i felt i was going to go mad if i did not do anything.

    >> reporter: while she can't call her husband, he calls her every day.

    >> confirming each other's safety.

    >> reporter: safe for now, uncertain of what the future holds. she hopes some day to go home, but fears she won't be able to stay for good. robert bazell , nbc news, japan.

msnbc.com news services
updated 3/23/2011 1:55:17 AM ET 2011-03-23T05:55:17

Tokyo's government on Wednesday advised that infants not drink tap water after elevated levels of radiation were found in a city water purification plant.

Levels of radioactive iodine in some city tap water were two times the safety limit for infants, Tokyo Water Bureau officials said.

The officials told reporters that a water treatment center in downtown Tokyo that supplies much of the city's tap water found that some water contained 210 becquerels per liter of iodine 131.

They said the limit for consumption of iodine 131 for infants is 100 becquerels per liter. They recommended that babies not be given tap water, although they said the water is not an immediate health risk for adults.

The announcement came as workers faced another day of struggle to cool damaged reactor cores at Japan's earthquake-hit nuclear complex. The plant is still emitting radiation but the source is unclear, a senior U.N. atomic agency official said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also raised concerns about a lack of information from Japanese authorities, as rising temperatures around the core of one reactor threatened to delay work.

"We continue to see radiation coming from the site ... and the question is where exactly is that coming from?" James Lyons, a senior official of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told a news conference in Vienna on Tuesday.

Despite hopes of progress in the world's worst nuclear crisis in a quarter of a century, triggered by an earthquake and tsunami that left at least 21,000 people dead or missing, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said it needed more time before it could say the reactors were stabilized.

Senior IAEA official Graham Andrew said that the overall situation remained "very serious" and that the U.N. atomic watchdog was concerned it had not received some information from Japan about the Fukushima nuclear plant.

"We have not received validated information for some time related to the containment integrity of unit 1. So we are concerned that we do not know its exact status," he said.

The IAEA also lacks data on the temperatures of the spent fuel pools of reactors 1, 3 and 4, he said, though Japan was supplying other updates.

Technicians working inside an evacuation zone around the plant on Japan's northeast Pacific coast, 150 miles north of Tokyo, have attached power cables to all six reactors and started a pump at one to cool overheating nuclear fuel rods.

Other repercussions from the massive earthquake and tsunami March 11 continued to ripple across the nation as economic losses mounted at three of Japan's flagship companies

In making an announcement after days of anxious waiting by the public, Tokyo Electric Power Co. cautioned that much work needed to be done before the electricity can be turned on. Workers are checking all additional equipment for damage to make sure cooling systems can be safely operated, Tokyo Electric said.

Slideshow: Devastation in Japan after quake (on this page)

Late Tuesday night, Tokyo Electric said lights went on in the central control room of Unit 3, but that doesn't mean power had been restored to the cooling system. Officials will wait until sometime Wednesday to try to power up the water pumps to the unit.

In another advance, emergency crews dumped 18 tons of seawater into nearly boiling storage pool holding spent nuclear fuel at Unit 2, cooling it to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, Japan's nuclear safety agency said. Steam, possibly carrying radioactive elements, had been rising for two days, and the move lessens the chances that more radiation will seep into the air.

"We cannot leave this alone and we must take care of it as quickly as possible," Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said, the New York Times reported.

The power lines and the sustained dousing together mean authorities are closer to bringing the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, with its six reactors and spent fuel pools, under control. Officials and experts, however, have said days, even weeks would be needed to replace damaged equipment and vent any volatile gas to make sure electricity does not spark an explosion.

Human, economic toll
Three of the country's biggest brands — Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Sony Corp. — put off a return to normal production due to shortages of parts and raw materials because of earthquake damage to factories in affected areas.

Toyota and Honda said they would extend a shutdown of auto production in Japan that already is in its second week, while Sony said it was suspending some manufacturing of popular consumer electronics such as digital cameras and TVs.

Story: Japan supply problem spreads as firms cut output

The National Police Agency said the overall number of bodies collected so far stood at 9,301, while 13,786 people have been listed as missing.

"We must overcome this crisis that we have never experienced in the past, and it's time to make a nationwide effort," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Tuesday in his latest attempt to try to soothe public anxieties.

While many of the region's schools, gymnasiums and other community buildings are packed with the newly homeless, in the 11 days since the disasters the numbers of people staying in shelters has halved to 268,510, presumably as many move in with relatives.

In the first five days after the disasters struck, the Fukushima complex saw explosions and fires in four of the plant's six reactors, and the leaking of radioactive steam into the air. Since then, progress continued intermittently as efforts to splash seawater on the reactors and rewire the complex were disrupted by rises in radiation, elevated pressure in reactors and overheated storage pools.

Tuesday's turnaround, in part, came as radiation levels abated from last week's highs, allowing authorities to bring in more workers. By Tuesday, 1,000 plant workers, subcontractors, defense troops and firefighters were at the scene, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

The Health Ministry ordered officials in the area of the stricken plant to increase monitoring of seawater and seafood after elevated levels of radioactive iodine and cesium were found in ocean water near the complex. Education Ministry official Shigeharu Kato said a research vessel had been dispatched to collect and analyze samples.

There have been few reports of looting since the disasters struck. But someone did take advantage of a bank's crippled security system that left a vault wide open — allowing at least one person to walk off with 40 million yen ($500,000), police said Tuesday.

Apology not accepted
Public sentiment is such in the area that Fukushima's governor rejected a request from the president of Tokyo Electric, or TEPCO, to apologize for the troubles.

"What is most important is for TEPCO to end the crisis with maximum effort. So I rejected the offer," Gov. Yuhei Sato said on national broadcaster NHK. "Considering the anxiety, anger and exasperation being felt by people in Fukushima, there is just no way for me to accept their apology."

Earlier, Japan said there was no need to extend a 12-mile evacuation zone around its tsunami-damaged nuclear plant, despite elevated radiation readings outside the area.

More than 170,000 people have been moved out of the zone, a virtual no-man's land.

"At the moment, there is no need to expand the evacuation area," Edano told a briefing.

The latest available readings from an area six miles outside the evacuation zone show a level of 110 microsieverts per hour in the air, well below a level that would cause health risks but much higher than normal background levels.

It is unclear what background levels would have been this far away from the plant before the tsunami struck, but a reading of 110 microsieverts is roughly 3,000 times Tokyo's normal pre-disaster background level.

Video: Tears fall for U.S. teacher in Japan's ocean of grief

Exposure to 100,000 microsieverts a year is the lowest level at which any increase in cancer risk is clearly evident.

The government is advising people living within six miles of the evacuation zone to stay indoors, but radiation in the atmosphere is not the only problem for these people with some food and even tap water having been found to be contaminated.

Elevated levels of radioactive cesium particles in the air are causing particular concern, because cesium can linger longer than, say, radioactive iodine, another element that has been found not only in the atmosphere but also in tap water.

Edano said there were no health risks, even at the highest cesium readings.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said that radiation seeping into the environment is a concern and needs to be monitored. "We are still in an accident that is still in a very serious situation," said Graham Andrew, senior adviser to IAEA chief Yukiya Amano.

Tainted food
Radiation fears are reaching well beyond those living near Fukushima and the 430,000 displaced by the earthquake and tsunami to encompass large segments of Japan. The Fukushima complex has leaked radiation that has found its way into vegetables, raw milk, the water supply and even seawater. Early Wednesday, the government added broccoli to the list of tainted vegetables, which also include spinach, canola, and chrysanthemum greens.

The Health Ministry ordered officials in the area of the stricken plant to increase monitoring of seawater and seafood after elevated levels of radioactive iodine and cesium were found in ocean water near the complex. Education Ministry official Shigeharu Kato said a research vessel had been dispatched to collect and analyze samples.

China, Japan's largest trading partner, has ordered testing of imports of Japanese food. The World Health Organization has urged Japan to adopt stricter measures and reassure the public.

Government officials and health experts say the doses are low and not a threat to human health unless the tainted products are consumed in abnormally excessive quantities. But the government measures to release data on radiation amounts, halt sales of some foods and test others are feeding public worries that the situation may grow more dire.

People at Fukushima city's main evacuation center waited in long lines for bowls of hot noodle soup. A truck delivered toilet paper and blankets. Many among the 1,400 people living in the crowded gymnasium came from communities near the nuclear plant and worry about radiation and weary of the daily routine of the displaced.

"It was an act of God," said Yoshihiro Amano, a grocery store owner whose house is 4 miles from the reactors. "It won't help anything to get angry. But we are worried. We don't know if it will takes days, months or decades to go home. Maybe never. We are just starting to be able to think ahead to that."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: After Japan's earthquake and tsunami - week 8

loading photos...
  1. A radiation measuring instrument is seen next to some residents in Kawauchimura, a village within the 12- to 18-mile zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, on April 28. Most residents of Kawauchimura have evacuated in order to avoid the radiation, but some remain in the area of their own accord. (Koichi Kamoshida / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A brazier heats the house of Masahiro Kazami, located within a 12-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, April 28. (Koichi Kamoshida / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Volunteers help clean a cemetery at Jionin temple in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan, on April 29. Many volunteers poured into the disaster-hit region at the beginning of the annual Golden Week holiday. (Hiro Komae / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Japanese government adviser Toshiso Kosako is overcome with emotion during a news conference on April 29 in Tokyo announcing his resignation. The expert on radiation exposure said he could not stay on the job and allow the government to set what he called improper radiation limits for elementary schools in areas near the tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Fuel rods are seen inside the spent fuel pool of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant reactor 4 on April 30. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A volunteer girl from Tokyo works to clean the debris of a house in Higashimatsushima, northern Japan, on April 30. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Farmer Tsugio Sato tends to his Japanese pear trees in Fukushima city, May 1. He said he expects to harvest the pears in October. Farmers and businesses face so-called "fuhyo higai," or damages stemming from the battered reputation of the Fukushima brand. (Hiro Komae / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Members of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in protective gear receive radiation screening in Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture, after searching for bodies at an area devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Ruriko Sakuma, daughter of dairy farmer Shinji Sakuma, rubs a cow at their farm in the village of Katsurao in Fukushima prefecture on May 3. Thousands of farm animals died of hunger in the weeks following the quake. (Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Map: Japan earthquake

  1. Above: Map Japan earthquake
  2. Interactive Japan before and after the disaster
  3. Image: The wave from a tsunami crashes over a street in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture in northeastern Japan
    Ho / Reuters
    Timeline Crisis in Japan

Explainer: The 10 deadliest earthquakes in recorded history

  • A look at the worst earthquakes in recorded history, in loss of human life. (The March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsumani that affected eastern Japan is not included because the fatalities caused, about 15,000, are fewer than those resulting from the temblors listed below.) Sources: United States Geological Survey, Encyclopedia Britannica

  • 1: Shensi, China, Jan. 23, 1556

    Magnitude about 8, about 830,000 deaths.

    This earthquake occurred in the Shaanxi province (formerly Shensi), China, about 50 miles east-northeast of Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi. More than 830,000 people are estimated to have been killed. Damage extended as far away as about 270 miles northeast of the epicenter, with reports as far as Liuyang in Hunan, more than 500 miles away. Geological effects reported with this earthquake included ground fissures, uplift, subsidence, liquefaction and landslides. Most towns in the damage area reported city walls collapsed, most to all houses collapsed and many of the towns reported ground fissures with water gushing out.

  • 2: Tangshan, China, July 27, 1976

    Chinese Earthquake
    Keystone  /  Getty Images
    1976: Workers start rebuilding work following earthquake damage in the Chinese city of Tangshan, 100 miles east of Pekin, with a wrecked train carriage behind them. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
    Magnitude 7.5. Official casualty figure is 255,000 deaths. Estimated death toll as high as 655,000.

    Damage extended as far as Beijing. This is probably the greatest death toll from an earthquake in the last four centuries, and the second greatest in recorded history.

  • 3: Aleppo, Syria, Aug. 9, 1138

    Magnitude not known, about 230,000 deaths.

    Contemporary accounts said the walls of Syria’s second-largest city crumbled and rocks cascaded into the streets. Aleppo’s citadel collapsed, killing hundreds of residents. Although Aleppo was the largest community affected by the earthquake, it likely did not suffer the worst of the damage. European Crusaders had constructed a citadel at nearby Harim, which was leveled by the quake. A Muslim fort at Al-Atarib was destroyed as well, and several smaller towns and manned forts were reduced to rubble. The quake was said to have been felt as far away as Damascus, about 220 miles to the south. The Aleppo earthquake was the first of several occurring between 1138 and 1139 that devastated areas in northern Syria and western Turkey.

  • 4: Sumatra, Indonesia, Dec. 26, 2004

    Aerial images show the extent of the devastation in Meulaboh
    Getty Images  /  Getty Images
    MEULABOH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 29: In this handout photo taken from a print via the Indonesian Air Force, the scene of devastation in Meulaboh, the town closest to the Sunday's earthquake epicentre, is pictured from the air on December 29, 2004, Meulaboh, Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. The western coastal town in Aceh Province, only 60 kilometres north-east of the epicentre, has been the hardest hit by sunday's underwater earthquake in the Indian Ocean. Officials expected to find at least 10,000 killed which would amount to a quarter of Meulaboh's population. Three-quarters of Sumatra's western coast was destroyed and some towns were totally wiped out after the tsunamis that followed the earthquake. (Photo by Indonesian Air Force via Getty Images)

    Magnitude 9.1, 227,898 deaths.

    This was the third largest earthquake in the world since 1900 and the largest since the 1964 Prince William Sound, Alaska temblor. In total, 227,898 people were killed or were missing and presumed dead and about 1.7 million people were displaced by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 14 countries in South Asia and East Africa. (In January 2005, the death toll was 286,000. In April 2005, Indonesia reduced its estimate for the number missing by over 50,000.)

  • 5: Haiti, Jan 12, 2010

    Haitians walk through collapsed building
    Jean-philippe Ksiazek  /  AFP/Getty Images
    Haitians walk through collapsed buildings near the iron market in Port-au-Prince on January 31, 2010. Quake-hit Haiti will need at least a decade of painstaking reconstruction, aid chiefs and donor nations warned, as homeless, scarred survivors struggled today to rebuild their lives. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)

    Magnitude 7.0. According to official estimates, 222,570 people killed.

    According to official estimates, 300,000 were also injured, 1.3 million displaced, 97,294 houses destroyed and 188,383 damaged in the Port-au-Prince area and in much of southern Haiti. This includes at least 4 people killed by a local tsunami in the Petit Paradis area near Leogane. Tsunami waves were also reported at Jacmel, Les Cayes, Petit Goave, Leogane, Luly and Anse a Galets.

  • 6: Damghan, Iran, Dec. 22, 856

    Magnitude not known, about 200,000 deaths.

    This earthquake struck a 200-mile stretch of northeast Iran, with the epicenter directly below the city of Demghan, which was at that point the capital city. Most of the city was destroyed as well as the neighboring areas. Approximately 200,000 people were killed.

  • 7: Haiyuan, Ningxia , China, Dec. 16, 1920

    7.8 magnitude, about 200,000 deaths.

    This earthquake brought total destruction to the Lijunbu-Haiyuan-Ganyanchi area. Over 73,000 people were killed in Haiyuan County. A landslide buried the village of Sujiahe in Xiji County. More than 30,000 people were killed in Guyuan County. Nearly all the houses collapsed in the cities of Longde and Huining. About 125 miles of surface faulting was seen from Lijunbu through Ganyanchi to Jingtai. There were large numbers of landslides and ground cracks throughout the epicentral area. Some rivers were dammed, others changed course.

  • 8: Ardabil, Iran, March. 23, 893

    Magnitude not known, about 150,000 deaths

    The memories of the massive Damghan earthquake (see above) had barely faded when only 37 years later, Iran was again hit by a huge earthquake. This time it cost 150,000 lives and destroyed the largest city in the northwestern section of the country. The area was again hit by a fatal earthquake in 1997.

  • 9: Kanto, Japan, Sept. 1, 1923

    Kanto Damage
    Hulton Archive  /  Getty Images
    1923: High-angle view of earthquake and fire damage on Hongokucho Street and the Kanda District, taken from the Yamaguchi Bank building after the Kanto earthquake, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
    7.9 magnitude, 142,800 deaths.

    This earthquake brought extreme destruction in the Tokyo-Yokohama area, both from the temblor and subsequent firestorms, which burned about 381,000 of the more than 694,000 houses that were partially or completely destroyed. Although often known as the Great Tokyo Earthquake (or the Great Tokyo Fire), the damage was most severe in Yokohama. Nearly 6 feet of permanent uplift was observed on the north shore of Sagami Bay and horizontal displacements of as much as 15 feet were measured on the Boso Peninsula.

  • 10: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Oct. 5, 1948

    7.3 magnitude, 110,000 deaths.

    This quake brought extreme damage in Ashgabat (Ashkhabad) and nearby villages, where almost all the brick buildings collapsed, concrete structures were heavily damaged and freight trains were derailed. Damage and casualties also occurred in the Darreh Gaz area in neighboring Iran. Surface rupture was observed both northwest and southeast of Ashgabat. Many sources list the casualty total at 10,000, but a news release from the newly independent government on Dec. 9, 1988, advised that the correct death toll was 110,000. (Turkmenistan had been part of the Soviet Union, which tended to downplay the death tolls from man-made and natural disasters.)

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments