Japan sees some stabilization in nuclear crisis


The operation to avert large-scale radiation has largely overshadowed the humanitarian crisis caused by the 9.0-magnitude quake and 10-meter (33-foot) tsunami.

Some 390,000 people, many elderly, are homeless, living in shelters in near-freezing temperatures in northeastern coastal areas. Food, water, medicine and heating fuel are in short supply and a Worm Moon, when the full moon is closest to Earth, could bring floods to devastated areas.

"Everything is gone, including money," said Tsukasa Sato, a 74-year-old barber with a heart condition, as he warmed his hands in front of a stove at a shelter for the homeless.

Health officials and the U.N. atomic watchdog have said radiation levels in the capital Tokyo were not harmful. But the city has seen an exodus of tourists, expatriates and many Japanese, who fear a blast of radioactive material.

"I'm leaving because my parents are terrified. I personally think this will turn out to be the biggest paper tiger the world has ever seen," said Luke Ridley, 23, from London as he sat at Narita international airport using his laptop.

Though there has been alarm around the world, experts say dangerous levels of radiation are unlikely to spread to other nations. The U.S. government said "minuscule" amounts of radiation were detected in California consistent with a release from the damaged facility but there were no levels of concern.

But the immediate problems remained huge for many people. Nearly 290,000 households in the north still have no electricity and about 940,000 lack running water.

Aid groups say most victims are getting help, but there are pockets of acute suffering.

"We've seen children suffering with the cold, and lacking really basic items like food and clean water," Stephen McDonald of Save the Children said in a statement.

At least 7,348 people were confirmed dead, exceeding 6,434 who died after the Kobe earthquake in 1995. But 10,947 people are still missing, National Police Agency of Japan said on Saturday.

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