Unprecedented Japanese disaster shakes Caribbean
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Sunday March 13, 2011 – The unprecedented disaster in Japan, spawned by the largest earthquake in that country’s recorded history, has sent emotional tremors throughout the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and prompted warnings that the region, like the rest of the world, needs to prepare for potential disasters.
In a message to the Embassy of Japan in Trinidad and Tobago, acting CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Lolita Applewhaite said that people of this region share Japan’s grief over the tragic and escalating loss of life.
“The people of the Caribbean Community are deeply saddened to learn of the tragic and escalating loss of life which continues to be reported in the international media. CARICOM joins the international community in offering its deepest sympathies to the families of those who perished and are missing, and to the thousands of Japanese displaced by the unimaginable effects of this disaster,” she said.
“Tragedies of this magnitude, triggering tsunami warnings across the entire Pacific and numerous other countries, underscore the importance of like-minded states collaborating in the vital area of disaster mitigation and preparedness.”
Ambassador Applewhaite said that CARICOM is confident that the country would overcome these trying times with the resilience and courage of the Japanese people.
Officials in several Caribbean states have offered their countries’ condolences and have also been seeking to ensure that their citizens in Japan are safe following the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami.
Residents of Japan’s coastal regions of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima have been most severely affected by the disaster.
The confirmed death toll has passed 1,200 but Japanese officials have said that the number of dead in tsunami-hit Miyagi alone could exceed 10,000.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the country is experiencing its greatest hardships since World War II.
In addition to continuing rescue efforts and getting aid to the affected, the country is also battling a growing crisis at the quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant where a partial meltdown may be underway.
Yesterday, a huge explosion blew apart the building housing reactor 1, where technicians had been venting steam to cool the reactor.
There are six reactors at Fukushima with failed cooling systems but the number 3 reactor, which is the current source of concern, is the only one that uses a plutonium fuel mix which makes the problem potentially more serious.
About 170,000 people have been evacuated from a 12.4 mile-area around the plant.
"The current situation of the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear plants is in a way the most severe crisis in the past 65 years since World War II,” Prime Minister Kan said in a televised statement.
"Whether we Japanese can overcome this crisis depends on each of us. I strongly believe that we can get over this great earthquake and tsunami by joining together."
Scores of ships and aircraft are struggling to reach areas worst-hit by the tsunami and international rescue teams are also flying into Japan following an appeal by the government.
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