Make us your home page

Japan faces a massive, daunting task with cleanup

Japan is a country where separating trash into its various components is almost sacrosanct: There are the burnables, the food items, the array of different recyclables. But the debris left behind by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami is monumental.

Where does the cleanup even start? By carting away the Chokai Maru, the 150-foot ship that was lifted over a pier and slammed into a house in Higashimatsushima? The thousands of destroyed cars scattered like toys in Sendai? With the broken windows and the doorless refrigerators and the endless remnants of so many lives that clutter the canals?

Much of the official cleanup effort so far has been to support rescue teams. Soldiers and city crews have cleared streets of debris so rescuers can get through, and some buildings have been pulled apart in search of survivors.

Now, with little chance left of finding anyone still alive, the concern is to avoid accidentally clearing away corpses with the debris.

Death toll passes 9,800: More than 9,800 bodies have been counted and more than 17,500 people are listed as missing. Those tallies may overlap, but police from one of the hardest-hit prefectures, Miyagi, estimate that the deaths will top 15,000 in that region alone.

Worries reach Europe: Officials in Iceland said they measured trace amounts of radioactive iodine in the air, but it is "less than a millionth" of levels found in European countries after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The U.S., Canada, Australia and Hong Kong had earlier said they were either halting or upgrading controls on Japanese food imports from areas near the plant.

U.S. help: More than 19,000 U.S. Marines and sailors have delivered supplies, surveyed ports, conducted aerial searches and surveys and provided support to rescuers. The U.S. 7th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Scott Van Buskirk, called it "the most complex humanitarian mission ever conducted."

Americans return: A charter flight with 144 U.S. military dependents — and 18 pets — arrived in Denver Thursday as part of a voluntary evacuation from Japan, the Denver Post reported. Most of the passengers were family members of service personnel from Yokota Air Base in Japan, but Army Col. Marc Hutson, defense coordinating officer for FEMA Region 8, said dependents from any base in Japan who wish to leave will be brought back.

Japan faces a massive, daunting task with cleanup 03/24/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 24, 2011 10:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Times wires.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours