On March 11, 2011, an earthquake struck off the coast of Japan, churning up a devastating tsunami that swept over cities and farmland in the northern part of the country and set off warnings as far away the west coast of the United States and South America. Recorded as 9.0 on the Richter scale, it was the most powerful quake ever to hit the country.
As the nation struggled with a rescue effort, it also faced the worst nuclear emergency since Chernobyl; explosions and leaks of radioactive gas took place in three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station that suffered partial meltdowns, while spent fuel rods at another reactor overheated and caught fire, releasing radioactive material directly into the atmosphere. Japanese officials turned to increasingly desperate measures, as traces of radiation were found in Tokyo's water and in water pouring from the reactors into the ocean. A month after the quake, nuclear officials put the crisis in the same category of severity as the Chernobyl disaster. In May, Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who had been criticized for showing a lack of leadership, said Japan would abandon plans to build new nuclear reactors, saying his country needed to “start from scratch” in creating a new energy policy that should include greater reliance on renewable energy and conservation.
By June, the official count of dead and missing was above 24,000. Tens of thousands of people remained housed in temporary shelters or evacuated their homes due to the nuclear crisis.
Figures released in May showed that Japan’s economy shrank at an annual rate of 3.7 percent in the first quarter of 2011, tipping the country into a recession, as the crisis disrupted production and prompted consumers to cut back on spending. Economists projected that the Japanese economy will shrink again in the second current quarter, but that the recession may be deep but quick.
The crisis also disrupted Japan's already turbulent... [continues]
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