Repercussions of Japan's triple disaster came into clearer focus today after the World Bank said the earthquake and tsunami caused up to $235 billion in damage in Japan alone and health officials reported more cases of radiation-tainted vegetables and tap water.
The World Bank's report today also said that Japan may need five years to rebuild from the catastrophic disasters, projecting the cost at as much as $33 billion for private insurers and $12 billion in government spending on reconstruction in the current national budget and much more later.
Japanese officials reported progress over the weekend in their battle to gain control over a nuclear complex that began leaking radiation after suffering quake and tsunami damage, though the crisis was far from over, with a dangerous new surge in pressure reported in one of the plant's six reactors.
The announcement by Japan's Health Ministry late Sunday that tests had detected excess amounts of radioactive elements on canola and chrysanthemum greens marked a low moment in a day that had been peppered with bits of positive news.
In a moment of joy Sunday, an 80-year-old woman and her teenage grandson were rescued after nine days in their flattened two-story house when the teen pulled himself to the roof and shouted to police for help.
Also Sunday, the operator of the overheated nuclear plant said two of the six reactor units were safely cooled down.
"We consider that now we have come to a situation where we are very close to getting the situation under control," Deputy Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama said.
Still, serious problems remained at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex. Pressure unexpectedly rose in a third unit's reactor, meaning plant operators may need to deliberately release radioactive steam. That has only added to public anxiety over radiation that began leaking from the plant after a monstrous earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan on March 11 and left the plant unstable. As day broke today, Japan's military resumed dousing of the complex's troubled Unit 4.
The safety of food and water was of particular concern. The government halted shipments of spinach from one area and raw milk from another near the nuclear plant after tests found iodine exceeded safety limits. Tokyo's tap water, where iodine turned up Friday, now has cesium. Rain and dust are also tainted.
The 9.0-magnitude quake spawned a tsunami that ravaged the northeastern coast, killing 8,649 people, leaving 12,877 people missing and displacing another 452,000, who are living in shelters. Police officials estimate that the death toll ultimately will exceed 18,000.