With Japan observing the one-year anniversary of its extraordinarily deadly 3/11 triple catastrophe on Sunday, the English-language online sites of three of the country's largest-circulation newspapers are all now covering various aspects of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns associated with last March 11.
The Japanese National Police Agency confirmed 15,854 people died and another 3,167 are missing because of the triple disaster, as it brought the figures in its Damage Situation And Police Countermeasures Associated With 2011 Tohoku District Off The Pacific Ocean Earthquake report up-to-date on Friday. More than one-half of the dead and missing resided in the Miyagi prefecture of the Tohoku region on Honshu island.
The economic costs of the triple catastrophe also were colossal, as they were prime movers in making 2011 the costliest year ever in terms of natural-disaster losses.
At about US$380 [billion], global economic losses [due to natural catastrophes] were nearly two-thirds higher than in 2005, the previous record year with losses of US$220 [billion]. The earthquakes in Japan in March and New Zealand in February alone caused almost two-thirds of these losses, according to Munich Re, one of the world's leading reinsurers.
'Costliest Natural Catastrophe Of All Time'
Drilling into the data for 2011, Munich Re noted: The most destructive loss event of the year was the earthquake of 11 March in Tohoku, Japan, when a seaquake with a magnitude of 9.0 occurred 130 [kilometers (80.6 miles)] east of the port of Sendai and 370 [kilometers (229.4 miles)] north of Tokyo. It was the strongest quake ever recorded in Japan. The damage from the tremors themselves was relatively moderate thanks to strict building codes.
Regrettably, the reinsurer reported: [T]he quake triggered a terrible tsunami. The wave devastated the northeast coast of the main island Honshu. In some bays, the wave reached a height of up to 40 metres [131.23 feet]. Entire towns, roads, and railway lines were washed away, hundreds of thousands of houses were destroyed. ... The tsunami-exposed northeast of Japan is believed to have last been hit by a seismic sea wave of this size in the year 869.
Completing its narrative of the triple whammy afflicting the world's third- or fourth-largest national economy (depending on whose data sets one employs), Munich Re wrote: The tsunami led to severe damage at several blocks of the Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant. Some areas within a radius of several kilometres of the plant will remain uninhabitable for a period of many years. Even without considering the consequences of the nuclear accident, the economic losses caused by the quake and the tsunami came to US$210 [billion] -- the costliest natural catastrophe of all time. The share of insured losses may amount to as much as US$40 [billion].
Naturally, Japan's 3/11 appears to have had a significant effect on the country's gross domestic product. Using numbers in a Bank of Japan Real Economy report dated Feb. 17, the nation's nominal GDP is estimated to have fallen from 2010 to 2011 by -2.2 percent in the first quarter, -4.0 percent in the second quarter, -2.6 percent in the third quarter, and -2.6 percent in the fourth quarter.
Covering All The Angles, Here And Now
Both the economic and the human costs of the triple catastrophe are very well covered by The Asahi Shimbun AJW (Asia and Japan Watch) on its 3/11 Disaster in Japan microsite, which it describes -- with only a small dollop of hyperbole -- as a special section designed to provide readers with the Internet's most comprehensive, archival coverage of Japan's tragic earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Articles about the triple disaster added to the microsite recently appear under Remembering 3/11 kickers. Among these story headlines are A Year Later, Heroic Little Paper Clings To Life, Victims' Relatives Seek Accountability For Deaths, and Fukushima Children Beg Government, 'Please Get Rid Of Radiation.' (Because nonsubscribers are allowed to access only five full articles per month for free before hitting The Asahi Shimbun AJW's pay wall, the frugally minded would be wise to carefully plan their clicks on this site.)
At Yomiuri Online, a site affiliated with The Yomiuri Shimbun, articles about the triple catastrophe added recently appear under One Year After The Disaster kickers. These story headlines include Aging Complicates Relocation, No. Of Tsunami Buildings Rises, and Schools With Fewer Students Struggle To Reopen. (Both the first and the last of these pieces can also be considered allusions to Japan's status as one of the grayest countries on Earth: Japan's estimated median age was 44.8 years in 2011, according to The World Factbook of the U.S. CIA. By way of contrast, Uganda's estimated median age was 15.1 years during the same period.)
One of most arresting features about the triple disaster at The Mainichi Daily News site, associated with the Mainichi Shimbun, is Almost One Year On: Aerial Photos From Near Fukushima Nuclear Plant, which appears in its In Focus section. Shot on Feb. 26, the photographs are stark reminders of how much was destroyed -- and how much remains to be re-created -- in the wake of the 3/11 event(s).