Earthquake Poses Gravest Challenge to Japan since 1945 - PMWorld | March 13, 2011, Sunday // 17:34| views
Members of Japanese Self-Defence Force prepare a convoy for search and rescue operations in Tagajo, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, about 220km north of Tokyo,13 March, 2011 EPA/BGNES
Japan is facing its worst challenge since World War II as a result of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that hit the country on Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has declared.
''This is the toughest crisis in Japan's 65 years of postwar history. I'm convinced that we can overcome the crisis," Kan said during a televised news conference on Sunday.
As much of Japan's east coast has been devastated by a tsunami caused by the earthquake and the country continues to face a potential nuclear crisis over damages in the nuclear power plants in Fukushima and Onagawa, Kan urged unity in the nation in order to tackle the aftermath of the natural disaster.
On Sunday, Kan decided to double the number of soldiers and rescuers mobilized for relief efforts in the northeastern parts of the country to about 100 000 troops.
The mobilized forces are about 40% of the total staff of the Japanese self-defense force, as the Japanese army is known.
Japan's Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa has pointed out that thousands of people in northeastern provinces are still isolated and expect help.
A total of 688 have been killed and 1 570 wounded in the earthquake and tsunami, according to latest official figures. Thousands are still deemed missing.
Some 200 000 living in the areas around the two nuclear power plants in Fukushima and Onagawa are being evacuated.
American aircraft carrier "Ronald Reagan" is actively taking part in the relief efforts. USAID has sent 144 rescuers, together with 62 teams of doctors and rescuers from the EU, China, South Korea, Australia, Switzerland, among others.
A total of 69 countries and five international organizations have offered aid to the Japanese government.
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