TOPICS > World

Japan Marks Moment of Silence for Victims as Battle to Cool Reactors Continues

March 18, 2011 at 6:16 PM EDT
Japan held a moment of silence marking one week since an earthquake and tsunami devastated the country's northeastern coast. Engineers at the damaged Fukushima nuclear power hooked up a new power cable in hopes of reviving the cooling system. James Mates of Independent Television News reports on attempts to control the reactors.
LISTEN SEE PODCASTS

TRANSCRIPT

RAY SUAREZ: The people of Japan marked one week today since catastrophe shattered their northeastern coast. The government acknowledged the twin disasters, earthquake and tsunami, were beyond anything it ever planned for.

And Prime Minister Naoto Kan appealed for unity in the face of staggering loss.

NAOTO KAN, Japanese prime minister (through translator): This is the worst crisis Japan has faced, and we are now being tested. Japan, in its past history, built this country with miraculous might, despite the fact that it is such a small island. We cannot let ourselves to be overcome by this quake and tsunami.

JEFFREY BROWN: The Japanese government also asked today for U.S. help to stabilize a badly damaged nuclear plant. Engineers at the Fukushima Daiichi site hooked up a new power cable, hoping to get the cooling system back online. Meanwhile, more emergency crews joined efforts to stabilize the plant.

We have a report from James Mates of Independent Television News.

JAMES MATES: They will do the duty because somebody must go into the Fukushima plant, somebody must risk the radiation to try to ensure a disaster doesn’t become a catastrophe.

The firemen who volunteered were sent off with due ceremony. Their work will be dangerous, but so little is known about what’s happening in Fukushima, that no one really knows how dangerous.

YUJI ARAI, Tokyo Fire Department (through translator): We expect a lot of difficulties with the mission we have been given. I think it is really a dangerous assignment. The reputation of Japan and the lives of many people rest on your actions.

JAMES MATES: Water is now being sprayed from high-pressure hoses towards the damaged reactors, but with little way of knowing if this is being effective at cooling them. The Japanese are now categorizing this as a level five incident on a scale of seven, up from level four.

The head of the world’s top nuclear agency told me that doesn’t necessarily mean that things are still deteriorating.

YUKIYA AMANO, International Atomic Energy Agency: And the accident is not a static event. It is, rather, dynamic event. Under control can mean a lot of things.

JAMES MATES: In all the very real concern about what might happen at Fukushima, there is a danger of forgetting what has happened on Japan’s northeast coast. It is a week today since the earthquake and tsunami struck, a chance to focus again on the many lives lost and on the hardships still being suffered.

At the hour the water destroyed the fishing town of Rikuzentakata, rescue work stopped, and they bowed their heads in a minute’s silence. Those still living in evacuation centers did the same, remembering the 6,000 known to have died, the 10,000 known to be missing, and the thousands more it’s feared have not been reported missing because everyone they knew died with them.

Of those who survived, 285,000 are still in evacuation centers, an extraordinary number to feed, keep warm, and to re-house. Taking care of them is going to dominate life in Japan for many months to come.