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The relentless wall of water that the quake unleashed killed thousands, swept away whole towns, inundated roads and knocked ports, oil refineries, steel plants and factories out of action.
Experts say the cost of the destruction likely exceeds that of the catastrophic 1995 Kobe earthquake _ estimated by Standard & Poor’s to have totaled
The four most severely affected prefectures (states) _
Hundreds of thousands of people have spent five nights with little food, water or heating in near-freezing temperatures as they dealt with the loss of homes and loved ones.
The biggest port on the northeast coast, Sendai, has been destroyed. It handled mainly container shipments of exports including rubber and marine products, office machinery, paper goods and auto parts. Three others _ Hachinohe, Ishinomaki and Onahama _ were severely damaged and will likely be out of commission for months.
Six oil refineries that can turn 1.4 million barrels of oil a day into fuel _ a third of
Steel plants have also been hit.
Elsewhere, widespread power shortages from damage to four nuclear plants _ an unfolding crisis in itself _ have forced many companies to halt production.
Companies are also facing problems shipping components, receiving raw materials and getting workers to facilities that are working, said
The components made by
Initial estimates of insurance losses from the disaster range as high as
Reconstruction will be extremely challenging because the damage is so widespread and has likely destroyed power lines and water treatment facilities, said
“In my view it would take five to 10 years to rebuild or repair,” said Yang, who as an associate professor at
That timeframe doesn’t include any radiation contamination from earthquake-crippled nuclear reactors, which could have a “potentially significant effect on the post-earthquake rebuilding,” he said.
The nuclear crisis has taken a dramatic turn for the worse following an explosion and a fire at reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power complex. Japanese authorities ordered emergency workers to withdraw from the stricken nuclear plant Wednesday amid a surge in radiation, temporarily suspending efforts to cool the overheating reactors.
“The destruction to ports, power plants and oil refineries in northeast
The rebuilding effort is expected to require tens of billions of dollars of public spending that will benefit construction companies but add to the already swollen national debt.
After the 1995 Kobe quake,
This time around, the government can’t afford to spend so freely because it’s already straining under a debt load that is double the size of the economy, said the
Any stimulus package will probably be paid for in later years by austerity measures, they said.
The mammoth recovery effort will likely mean rebuilding entire towns from scratch and it could be several years before significant construction work is even started, said
Collis said that from his experience helping on reconstruction efforts in the
Another year could be spent on designing the new roads, bridges, houses and other buildings that need to be rebuilt, while a third year is spent putting contracts out for bidding.
“It could easily take three years before significant reconstruction is done,” Collis said.
He said housing, transport links and factories and other businesses would all have to be rebuilt at the same time.
“It’s very difficult to provide a lot of housing if there are no jobs available or transport to and from,” he said.
Rebuilding after the
That’s not such a big problem in northeastern
One of the big problems that planners face at the outset of the rebuilding phase is whether it’s a good idea to rebuild in the same place with the same type of buildings, said Collis.
Many survivors are suffering from psychological trauma, he said.
“People would be horrified if they were asked to go back live in same location.”
Chan reported from