JAPAN: Earthquake Aftermath, As Seen From Japanese Media

JAPAN: Earthquake Aftermath, As Seen From Japanese Media

Friday's earthquake and the tsunami that followed is a massive disaster in Japan. Here's a quick look at how it's being covered by the Japanese media.


DEATH TOLL A precise count of victims in the immediate wake of a disaster of this scale and breadth is always hard to verify, especially in the early hours. While most news organizations have stuck to the figures of dead bodies recovered, and reports of "hundreds' missing, Japan's official Kyodo news agency released an early report of 88,000 people missing. That has since be revised downward. But by Sunday, the website of leading daily Asahi Shimbun was reporting that sources at the prefecture in Miyagi were calling it'inevitable" that the number killed by the tsunami would reach 10,000 in that northern province alone.

HELL ON EARTH Two Yomiuri reporters made it to the town of Kesennuma in the Miyagi province, which was described as a "hellish sight," with all but the platform of the local train station swept away. The destroyed houses, debris and rubble inevitably begged the question of how many human victims were buried out of sight.

ATOMIC FEARS Sankei covers the conflicting reports on the gravity of the situation at the troubled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, where overheating has apparently deformed the core of the No. 3 injecting water into them and reducing the pressure inside. Some 20 people have reportedly been treated for exposure to radiation. (Here's a picture of people waiting to be tested) Still, the government's top spokesman has cautioned that there are still no signs that the situation poses an immediate health crisis.

NATIONAL EMERGENCY Nikkei daily website ran the Kyodo report on Sunday's press conference of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who called on his fellow Japanese to focus foremost on trying to save lives in rescue operations, and announced the country would begin rationing electricity. He called the disaster Japan's biggest challenge since World War II.


*Live simultaneous translation into English of Japanese television reports of the quake aftermath....HERE

*Buildings sway...HERE

*Tsunami rolls....HERE

*GlobalVoices on social translation in a moment of crisis....HERE

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Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

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