Japanese police say deaths from the recent Sendai earthquake and tsunami, now upgraded to magnitude 9 and the 4th most intense in recorded history, will be measured “in the tens of thousands” amidst warnings of a likely magnitude 7 aftershock and an ongoing reactor crisis.
The police chief of tsunami-ravaged Miyagi prefecture says the final death toll “will undoubtedly be measured in the tens of thousands.”
Only 2,000 deaths have so far been officially confirmed, suggesting the final casualty figures will depend strongly on what proportion of the large numbers of unaccounted for persons turn out to be deceased as opposed to merely out of communication or dispersed amongst the 250,000 refugees currently displaced from their homes.
Of more immediate concern is the perilous state of Fukushima’s reactors, after the reactor officials reported as being at or near meltdown suffered a non-nuclear explosion shortly after it was brought under control.
Now Reactor 3 is undergoing a similar coolant system failure, and according to reports is also at or near meltdown status.
Officials say the possibility of an actual nuclear explosion is remote, but have confirmed radioactive leakage in the vicinity is at unsafe levels and have been steadily widening the exclusion zone around the plant to double its previous size.
After an “unprecedented” 180 magnitude 5+ aftershocks already, official seismologists also indicate that there is 70% chance of a magnitude 7 aftershock within the next 3 days, and a further 50% chance of one within the next 3 days after that – the only consolation being that there is not much left to destroy in the most vulnerable areas.
Tokyo has already largely returned to normal after suffering minimal casualties, although the capital region remains at risk of power cuts and is suffering lingering disruption to the distribution of goods.