M. Alex Johnson – Journalist at Large

An analog journalist in a digital world

Triple whammy slows Japan relief effort

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Snow at Japanese gas station (Hiroaki Ono/AP )

A gas station worker tells drivers who camped out overnight Wednesday that no fuel is available in Ichinoseki in northern Japan. Physical destruction and harsh, snowy conditions have created a severe fuel shortage in the country. (Hiroaki Ono/AP)

Rescue and recovery efforts after the nuclear disaster in Japan are being stymied by a nearly overwhelming array of obstacles, as government and aid groups struggle with the physical devastation of last week’s earthquake and tsunami, the specter of radiation dangers and harsh weather conditions.

“The huge challenge for the aid workers on the ground is just the operating conditions they are dealing with,” said Kirsten Mildren, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “Search and rescue workers are saying they’ve never seen anything like this.”

Mildren said the tsunami that followed last week’s magnitude 9.0 earthquake “took everything in its path. … The level of destruction is just monumental and you’ve still got flooded areas, and now on top of that you’ve got this rain and this snow.”

The need in Japan is extreme, the United Nations reported. The 450,000 refugees crowded into 2,444 shelters don’t begin to tell the story: About 1.6 million households are without water in 12 prefectures. Temperatures are below freezing in much of the area. Anxiety is rising over radiation leaks from the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactors.

Full story (Miranda Leitsinger and Alex Johnson/msnbc.com)

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Written by Alex

March 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm

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