Power cuts return as Japan starts to bury its dead
Mar 22, 2011, 5:50 GMT
Tokyo - Rolling blackouts affecting 10 million homes restarted Tuesday in Japan after a three-day break as the death toll rose and some cities chose to bury their dead after crematoria ran out of fuel, media reports said.
Tokyo Electric Power Co said that demand would outstrip capacity as the working week started after a public holiday on Monday. Electricity supplies were affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which put some nuclear power stations out of action.
A shortage of fuel affected efforts to dispose of bodies from the disaster, forcing some crematoria - the usual method in Japan - to stop work.
The government of Higashimatsushima city in Miyagi prefecture said it had bought land to bury up to 1,000 people. Mayor Hideo Abe said the burials were a temporary solution and the bodies would be dug up and cremated within two years.
Many other towns and cities in Miyagi, including the capital, Sendai, were reportedly planning to bury bodies.
North-eastern Japan continued to suffer from cold weather. Iwate prefecture's capital, Morioka, saw temperatures as low as minus 2.8 degrees Celsius, and Sendai saw minus 3.1 degrees.
Total deaths in the tsunami and magnitude-9 quake, the strongest ever recorded in Japan, stood at 9,080 Tuesday, the National Police Agency said.
Around 310,000 people were living in shelters and 13,561 people were registered as missing, police said.
'Until now, we've asked [relief workers] to prioritize the rescue of affected people,' Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai said in Sendai. 'We now want them to place priority on assisting people who are living in the shelters.'
In a sign of to what extent the disaster had impacted everyday life in the region, Iwate's government said 10 days after it hit that access had been restored to all its communities and the education ministry said 3,398 schools had been unable to open after the disaster.
At least 125 pupils and students were confirmed dead in the disaster and 1,600 were missing, the ministry said.
After reports that some guesthouses had turned away people fleeing radiation releases at a quake- and tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture because of fears those potential guests could be contaminated themselves, the Health Ministry told prefectures that they must monitor hotels to prevent the practice.
Not all relief efforts were running smoothly.
In Sendai, refugees housed in a school have been unable to eat microwave food because of a lack of power and were still waiting for underwear to be supplied, local officials said.
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