The Triple Disaster of March 2011 and Its Impact on Japanese Politics and Economy

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1. The triple disaster of March 2011 and its impact on Japanese politics and economy The triple disaster: earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident. The earthquake and tsunami caused extensive and severe structural damage in north-eastern Japan, including heavy damage to roads and railways as well as fires in many areas, and a dam collapse. Naoto Kan said, "In the 65 years after the end of World War II, this is the toughest and the most difficult crisis for Japan." Around 4.4 million households in northeastern Japan were left without electricity and 1.5 million without water. The tsunami caused nuclear accidents, primarily the level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex, and the associated evacuation zones affecting hundreds of thousands of residents. Japan's economy was dealt a devastating blow by the 9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that pummeled the country. An estimated 20,000 were dead or missing, and at least 300,000 were displaced. Many of the people in the area were elderly, and cold weather and disrupted transportation routes made rescue efforts difficult. The aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami included both a humanitarian crisis and massive economic impacts. The tsunami created over 300,000 refugees in the Tōhoku region of Japan, and resulted in shortages of food, water, shelter, medicine and fuel for survivors. Fuel shortages hampered relief actions. In the first week after the earthquake, supplies of food, water, and medicine had been held up because of a fuel shortage and the weather condition. Following the earthquake some analysts were predicting that the total recovery costs could reach ¥10 trillion ($122 billion); however, by 12 April 2011 the Japanese government estimated that the cost of just the direct material damage could exceed ¥25 trillion ($300 billion). Japan's real gross domestic product contracted 3.7% for the quarter of January to March 2011. The northern Tōhoku region, which was most affected, accounts for about 8% of the country's gross domestic product, with factories that manufacture products such as cars and beer, as well as energy infrastructure. An estimated 23,600 hectares of farmland, mostly rice paddies, were damaged by the tsunami. Salt left in the soil by the seawater could adversely affect rice crops for years. The affected area accounts for as much as 3%–4% of Japan's rice production. The earthquake and tsunami have had significant immediate impacts on businesses such as Toyota, Nissan and Honda, which completely suspended auto production. The reconstruction of damaged areas in Tōhoku beginning in 2011 produced a boom in construction jobs and business in the area. As a result, cities like Sendai benefited from an increase in residents and wages for construction-related jobs rose. By March 2012, 644 companies in Japan had been forced into bankruptcy by the disaster. To make things worse, radiation contamination was added to their concerns. The earthquake and resultant tsunami were bad enough caused a radioactive leak at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Japan classified this nuclear disaster as a 7, the same level as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (1986). In Japan, although workers were initially unable to stop radioactive leaks at the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant, only 1/10 the level of radiation was emitted. However, radiation continued to leak into the Pacific Ocean, raising levels to 4,000 times the legal limit. It took months to stop the leak. Radiation showed up in local milk and vegetables, and briefly appeared in Tokyo's drinking water. Japan's nuclear industry supplied a third of the country's electricity. In total, 11 of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors were closed immediately following the earthquake. The capacity to produce electricity was reduced by as much as 40%, and has remained at less than 80% of pre-quake levels. The World Bank estimated that Japan's disaster would cost between 100-300...
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