We're just a day or so from the two week mark since disaster struck Japan on March 11th. Estimates now are that the death toll is likely to top more than 27,000 people killed in the great Tohoku Earthquake and its subsequent tsunami (with a peak wave now estimated to have 77 feet at its highest.)
Some quick math comparing the relative populations of Japan to the U.S. suggest that, had such a disaster struck this country, some 68,000 lives would have been lost in a single day. To further appreciate the size of Japan's disaster, the cost of damage is estimated to be around $300 billion. In the U.S., the cost of the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina, one of our greatest disasters, is estimated to be "only" around $81 billion, according to Reuters.
Friday is already well under way at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and reports last night and today suggest a calm, of sorts, at least in regard to the chain of continuing disasters we've seen there over much of the last two weeks. Though, like the photo that opens this article above, that calm may mask other problems, or be shattered in an instant, as has frequently been the case just after we post one of these "things seem to be stabilizing" articles.
Nonetheless, there does seem to be some stabilization at Fukushima's Daiichi power plant and its six troubled reactors at this moment, even as three plant workers were contaminated after stepping into 30 centimeters of radioactive water yesterday (two were sent to the hospital with burns on their skin as the radiation they came into contact with is said by TEPCO to have been 10,000 times normal levels); irradiated tap water worries ease somewhat in Tokyo, but spread to neighboring prefectures; and as scientists grapple with attempting to determine the full extent of the damage at the nuclear plant and the radiation dangers to the rest of the country, and across the globe, as data now suggests releases of dangerous radioactive cesium-137 have so far reached approximately 50% of that released at Chernobyl twenty-five years ago next month.
But first, before some of that gloomier news below, a (happily) very quick update on the latest status of each of the six crippled nuclear reactors...