The cost of disaster

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The disaster in Japan isn’t getting the same attention as others

Ed Kapp
News Writer

According to new figures and estimates, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that destroyed much of Japan, in conjunction with the ongoing crisis at a number of nuclear reactors, may prove to be one of costliest natural disasters to date.

According to Japan’s National Police Agency, as of Sunday Mar. 27, the disaster had accounted for nearly 11,000 casualties, while more than 16,000 remained missing.

Among those fortunate enough to survive the earthquake and tsunami, nearly a quarter of a million Japanese citizens are currently living in shelters. Additionally, the Japanese government has evacuated everyone – 177,500 residents – within a 20 km radius of the quake-stricken nuclear plant.

While the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami, according to the National Police Agency, has completely destroyed nearly 19,000 buildings in Japan, there are still nearly 200,000 homes without electricity and over half-a-million households in 10 prefectures without running water across the nation.

Although it is truly hard to tell what the final cost of the disaster will be at this point since estimates are based purely on speculation, the Japanese government is saying the potential cost of the disaster could be upwards of $300 billion USD, and pegged the rebuilding project to take at least five years.

These financial estimates – excluding factors like lost economic activity, the impact of swings in financial markets, and the costs arising from damage to the Fukushima reactor – does include damage to homes, factories, roads, and other infrastructure.

According to a statement made by Japan’s Foreign Ministry, 133 countries along with 39 international organizations have offered some form of assistance.

Despite being one of the first countries to offer support in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, as of Mar. 25, Canada’s response to Japan’s series of disasters has left, according to many, quite a bit to be desired. It is especially when compared to the amount of support generated after the earthquake in Haiti in early 2010.

Geneviève Déry, a spokesperson for the Canadian Red Cross in Quebec said Canadians had contributed $12 million to earthquake relief in Japan in the two weeks immediately following the disaster.

In contrast, individual Canadian contributions to Haiti surpassed that amount within hours of the initial earthquake. To date, Canadians have contributed 200 million USD to rebuilding projects in Haiti.

The federal government, as of Mar. 18, said that they have no intention on matching individual Canadian contributions, unlike in Haiti.

Regardless, on Friday, Mar 18, Japan’s ambassador to Canada thanked the country for its donations.

“I want to thank Canadians deeply, Kaoru Ishikawa said at a business luncheon in Montreal, Quebec. “We are so grateful indeed.”

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