hopes to cool reactors soon
(AFP) - Japanese engineers fighting to cool overheating
reactors laid a power line into a stricken nuclear power
plant on Saturday as hundreds of thousands of quake-tsunami
survivors endured desperate conditions in the frozen north.
In an updated toll, national police said at least 18,000
were dead or missing in Japan’s worst natural disaster in 88
years. Just under 7,200 were confirmed killed, lost to the
tsunami or interred in the wreckage of buildings.
Amid the sea of carnage on Japan’s northeast coast, one tiny
drop of good news seemed to have emerged with the military
announcing the rescue of a young man who it said had
survived after eight days trapped in his mangled house.
But a spokesman for the Self-Defense Forces later clarified
that the man in his 20s was in fact a disaster evacuee who
had returned to his house.
Half a million homeless people are struggling to stay warm
in freezing temperatures and with scant supplies of food and
fuel, after the tsunami reduced whole towns and villages to
Further south at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant,
crews were locked in what the UN’s atomic watchdog said was
a “race against time” to cool overheating reactors and
prevent radiation spewing into the atmosphere.
After an epic week-long tussle to tame the ageing facility,
where the tsunami knocked out all-important backup
generators, the crews were expecting Saturday to restore
electricity to four of its six reactors, officials said.
The nuclear safety agency said workers had got a power line
into the plant after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake - the
biggest in Japan’s recorded history - felled electricity
pylons in the area.
With power back up, the radiation-suited Fukushima engineers
hope they can get vital cooling systems online. In the
meantime, they have been dumping water by hose and by air on
the reactors to avert a feared meltdown.
But given the extent of damage at the plant, it was not yet
clear whether the cooling system would work properly even if
power is restored.
The lack of power has sent the temperatures of fuel rods --
both in the reactors and in separate containment pools --
soaring as fast-evaporating coolant water leaves them
exposed to the air.
The natural disaster on March 11 led to a series of hydrogen
explosions and fires at buildings housing the reactor units,
stoking anxiety among governments and the public worldwide
and contributing to turmoil on financial markets.
But in a televised address Friday evening, Prime Minister
Naoto Kan promised the traumatised nation: “We will overcome
this tragedy and recover... We will once more rebuild
Recalling Japan’s recovery from the ashes of World War II,
Kan promised “firm control” of the disaster and said: “We
are in a situation in which this crisis is truly testing us
as a people.”
|Demos across Syria
after foiled Damascus rally
DAMASCUS (AFP) -
Syrian security forces killed four people and wounded
hundreds as demonstrations erupted across the country in the
first such show of discontent under Bashar al-Assad’s rule,
rights groups said.
“Security forces fired live bullets at the protesters. Four
people were killed” on Friday, said a human rights activist
in the southern city of Daraa contacted by AFP from Nicosia.
He identified the victims as Akram al-Jawabra, Hussam
Abdelwali Ayash, Ayham al-Harri and a member of the Abu Aoun
“Hundreds of protesters were wounded and many were snatched
by the security force from the hospital where they had been
taken and removed to an unknown location,” he added.
Similar demonstrations were reported in the coastal town of
Banias, in Homs, north of the capital, as well as in
Plain-clothes police broke up a protest after Friday prayers
at the main mosque in central Damascus and dragged away at
least two activists, AFP reporters witnessed.
A crowd inside the men’s section of the historic Omayyed
Mosque could be heard chanting “There is no God but God” in
crescendo after the noon prayers.
Dozens of security agents deployed outside the mosque pulled
out batons as soon as the chants broke out and detained at
least two people, beating one who resisted and kicking him
in the nose.
At least 200 people immediately rallied in a square outside
the mosque, shouting support for Assad, who rose to power in
2000, and waving Syrian flags.
Some carried portraits of his late father and predecessor
Terrified families could be seen fleeing the square, with
many children in tears.
Facebook group The Syrian Revolution 2011 had called for
demonstrations after Friday prayers during a “Day of
Dignity.” The group had attracted more than 52,000 fans by
A video posted Friday on the page showed a crowd of men
inside the Omayyed Mosque chanting “there is no God but God”
in response to a few calls of “freedom” which were quickly
Another video showed one man being dragged out of the mosque
by other men who had attended the prayers.
The Facebook group also posted a video of a rally outside a
landmark mosque in the city of Homs, 150 kilometres (about
100 miles) north of Damascus, where dozens of protesters
marched, chanting “God, Syria, freedom.”
Two other videos, allegedly from the coastal city of Banias,
showed crowds, one with at least 100 people, chanting for
The page said clashes had occurred between protesters and
security forces in Daraa, while video footage showed fire
trucks turning their hoses on a procession to disperse
More footage showed hundreds of protesters, mainly men,
chanting in Daraa, some 100 kilometres south of the capital.
denies news of ‘eight-day survivor’
Japan (AFP) - A man thought to have survived for eight days
in the rubble of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami zone was
actually an evacuee who had returned to his house, a
military spokesman said Saturday.
Troops had found the man -- aged in his 20s, apparently in
shock and unable to speak -- inside a wrecked house in the
disaster area of Kesennuma city in Miyagi prefecture, the
Self-Defense Forces (SDF) said earlier.
“When the person was transported to hospital, a fire
department official recognised him as an evacuee who had
been in a centre for a week and who had tried to return to
his home,” an SDF spokesman later told AFP.
The man had temporarily returned home, together with his
family, and was alone on the second floor of his
half-destroyed house when he was found by a pair of troops,
Jiji Press said, citing SDF and hospital sources.
The man was identified as Katsuharu Moriya, Kyodo News
A 9.0-magnitude earthquake on March 11 triggered a giant
tsunami that flattened Japan’s northeast coast and killed
7,197, according to the latest police death toll, with
almost 11,000 officially listed as missing.
disaster dead, missing toll tops 18,000: Police
TOKYO, March 19, 2011 (AFP) - The number of people confirmed
as dead or listed as missing by Japan’s national police
agency topped 18,000 on Saturday, eight days after the
massive earthquake and tsunami struck.
There were fears of a far higher death toll from the
disaster that wiped out vast residential areas along the
Pacific coast of northern Honshu island.
The national police agency said 7,197 people had been
confirmed dead and 10,905 officially listed as missing -- a
total of 18,102 -- as of 9:00 am Saturday (0000 GMT) as a
result of the March 11 catastrophe.
Hopes of finding many more survivors amid the rubble have
diminished amid a cold snap that has hit Japan’s northeast,
covering much of the disaster area in snow earlier this
The death toll has surpassed that of the 7.2-magnitude quake
that struck the western Japanese port city of Kobe in 1995,
killing 6,434 people.
The March 11 quake is now Japan’s deadliest natural disaster
since the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, which killed more
than 142,000 people.
The latest police figures for people missing do not include
local reports from along the tsunami-hit coast of vast
numbers of people unaccounted for.
The mayor of the coastal town of Ishinomaki in Miyagi
prefecture said Wednesday that the number of missing there
was likely to hit 10,000, Kyodo News reported.
On Saturday, public broadcaster NHK said that around 10,000
people were unaccounted for in the port town of
Minamisanriku in the same prefecture.
says ‘plot’ to oust the government
(AFP) - Senegal on Saturday denounced a “plot” to topple the
government of President Abdoulaye Wade, who came to power
exactly 11 years ago, and said arrests would follow.
The plotters included opposition activists, artists and
students, a communique by Justice Minister Cheikh Tidiane Sy
read on state television said early Saturday.
“The avowed objective of the plotters is to stir trouble to
bring the people on to the streets, create disorder and
violence to topple the regime,” it said.
“The state prosector has decided to nip the plot in the bud
... by proceeding to arrest individuals duly identified as
being involved in the plot,” it said.
A range of political and civic groups have announced plans
to demonstrate on Saturday, the 11th anniversary of Wade’s
electoral victory on March 19, 2000. He was sworn in on
April 1 that year and is now 84.
He was re-elected for five years in 2007 after a change to
the constitution and announced as of September 2009 that he
would seek another mandate. The opposition believes he
should step down in 2012.
“The security and defence forces are already prepared to
channel demonstrations and make them safe. They have also
received orders to tolerate no excesses, no violence, no
deterioration of property,” the ministry of the interior
said in a statement.
“Organisers and participants in gatherings, rallies and
demonstrations where there is damage and violence will be
held financially responsible for the costs” incurred, the
The government said that none of the pre-announced
demonstrations had been banned, despite fears of unrest in
the west African country, where there is heated debate over
Saturday’s rallies also come in a tense social and economic
climate, marked notably by frequent power cuts, which have
caused severe setbacks to business and industry and
exasperated many Senegalese people.
reported near Benghazi
BBC - Explosions have
rocked Libya’s rebel stronghold of Benghazi, despite Libya’s
government declaring a ceasefire.
A jet appears to have been shot down over the city in spite
of a UN no-fly resolution, says the BBC’s Ian Pannell.
The rebels say they are under attack from pro-Gaddafi
forces, but the government denies the claims.
Leaders from Britain, the US, France and Arab countries are
due to meet in Paris to discuss military action in Libya
under the new UN resolution.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the world must “speak
with one voice” on Libya.
The resolution authorised “all necessary measures” to
protect Libyan civilians.
Earlier, US President Barack Obama said forces loyal to Col
Muammar Ghaddafi must stop attacking rebel areas or face
“Gaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi,
pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misrata and Zawiya and
establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas,”
he said on Friday.
On Friday, Col Gaddafi’s government declared a unilateral
truce but there were reports that government offensives in
rebel-held towns were continuing, and our correspondent says
gunfire was also heard coming from the sea.