Monday, March 14, 2011
Kan asks for public's help in overcoming postwar Japan's 'worst crisis'
Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Sunday called for cooperation from the public to overcome "the worst crisis" in the postwar history of Japan, saying he approved limiting electricity supply from Monday in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake which struck the country Friday and crippled nuclear power plants.
Kan also said a total of about 12,000 people have been rescued so far since the magnitude 9.0 quake and ensuing tsunami destroyed vast areas of northeastern Japan, while the government projected significant damage to the nation's economy.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the government will use its contingency funds of some 200 billion yen ($2.44 billion) this month to pay for relief measures, instead of drawing up a supplementary budget as urged by some opposition lawmakers.
"This is the worst crisis in the postwar history of 65 years," Kan said in his televised message to the public. "All Japanese are now being tested on whether we can overcome the crisis, and I'm sure (we) will be able to overcome this crisis."
He said the government gave the green light for Tokyo Electric Power Co. to undertake an emergency step of planned electricity outages in its service area centering on the capital in order to avoid a massive blackout in the country.
The announcement came as the government rushed to ensure people's safety amid quake-induced problems at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.
Japanese authorities struggled to control overheating reactors at the troubled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, injecting water into them and reducing the pressure inside.
Edano, the government's top spokesman, told reporters that the core of the No. 3 reactor at the plant may have been deformed due to overheating. But he denied it means any critical situation.
Kan met with the presidents of Toshiba Corp. and Tokyo Electric Power Co. over the incident. TEPCO operates the plant while Toshiba, one of the world's leading power systems makers, manufactured equipment used in the Fukushima plant facilities.
The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry called on large companies to limit electricity use such as air conditioning, neon lighting and hot-water supply for business purposes.
Yoshikatsu Nakayama, parliamentary secretary of the ministry, met with members of the Japan Business Federation, an association of big businesses known as Nippon Keidanren, asking them to consider shifting production to areas outside the quake-hit Tohoku and Kanto regions.
"We will face significant impact (from the quake) on our economic activities," Edano said at a news conference, underlining the need for sharing information among relevant ministers and taking necessary measures as quickly as possible.
Earlier in the day, Edano said on a TV program that he believes the government will be able to address the emergency situation for the time being with the 200 billion yen contingency funds allocated in the fiscal 2010 budget.
The remarks came against some opposition parties asking the government to consider crafting an extra budget for the year through March 31.
The ruling and opposition parties remained apart over a 92.41 trillion yen initial budget for fiscal 2011, which starts April 1, with Kan's Democratic Party of Japan calling for the swift passage of related bills through the divided Diet while the opposition camp, which controls the House of Councillors, urged some modification.
Kan and leaders from the Liberal Democratic Party held talks at his office, in which the main opposition party filed a set of requests, demanding that the government do more in rescue operations.
The government has decided to step up its efforts to bring food and water to areas that need it, with an eye to airlifting emergency supplies mainly to school grounds in areas where roads are inaccessible and communications are cut off, a government official said.
Emergency supplies, including rice balls, bananas, bread and drinks, are hoped to be delivered by Monday morning to the evacuees via helicopters such as those operated by the Self-Defense Forces, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama said.
In addition to food, ministers agreed during a meeting of the government's emergency disaster headquarters that those caught in the disaster are also lacking information, Fukuyama said.
In an attempt to convey accurate information on the government's response to the quake, the prime minister's office decided to open its own Twitter account.