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I have just returned from a trip to Tohoku, the north-east region of Japan pulverised by the worst tsunami and earthquake to hit the country in decades. More than 20,000 people are dead or missing and some of the coastal towns in the worst-affected areas lost up to 10 per cent of their inhabitants. Some 200,000 homes and shops have been washed away, nearly 80 per cent of the buildings in some places.
There had been hope that the shock would jolt some sense into Japan’s politicians. Sadly, that seems not to have occurred. Read more
We are borrowing Gideon’s blog to cover Japan’s earthquake. I am Shannon Bond in New York and I have taken over from Alan Rappeport and, earlier, Leyla Boulton in London. We are tapping our correspondents around the world. Please keep your comments coming. All times are London time.
2330 – We’re suspending rolling coverage until our colleagues in Asia are able to join us once again. Stay tuned.
2328 – More from Michiyo Nakamoto in Tokyo, who has spoken to sources at Tepco: Pressure in units 1,2,3 at Fukushima Nuclear power plant Number 1 has risen in the primary containment vessel but unable to confirm the level. All units almost completely sealed. The government has ordered Tepco to release the pressure and Tepco is preparing to do so. There is no electricity so unable to cool. All units at Fukushima Number 2 power plant shut down but all units apart from those that had been under maintenance are still functioning.
2319 - Reuters quotes a Tepco spokesman saying that pressure is stable inside the reactors but rising in the containment vessels. He said he did not know if there would be a need to release pressure – and radiation – at the plant at this point. Read more
By Daniel Dombey, US diplomatic correspondent
What do you say about a natural disaster that has displaced 2m people, destroyed or damaged 500,000 homes and killed some 800 people – but still seems almost overshadowed by an even greater calamity elsewhere?
Hillary Clinton sought to put her thoughts and feelings into words when she paid a flying visit to Chile on Tuesday, whose devastating 8.8 Richter scale earthquake comes hard on the heels of the Biblical scenes of devastation in Haiti.
Arriving with aid, promises of more help on the way and a vow not to distract the country from its emergency and reconstruction effort, she was clearly moved. Read more