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[Editorial] Quake in Japan

A Herculean rescue and recovery operation is under way in Japan following Friday’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. The quake, which hit Japan’s northeastern coast, measured 9.0 in magnitude, the strongest ever recorded in that country. It triggered a ferocious, 10-meter tsunami that swept away everything in its path.

To make matters worse, radiation leaked from a quake-damaged nuclear reactor at a power plant in Fukushima prefecture on Saturday, raising fears of a meltdown. A radiation leak was also expected from another nuclear reactor in the same facility, as its emergency cooling system has stopped functioning.

Media reports said the death toll from the disaster could run into the high thousands. Some 10,000 residents at a village in Miyagi prefecture, the hardest-hit region, have been out of contact and were presumed to be missing.

The Japanese government is mobilizing 100,000 Self-Defense Force troops to search for survivors and assist recovery efforts along the northeast coast. We offer our deepest condolences to the Japanese people and wish speedy and early recovery.

Although Japan is well prepared for quakes, it still needs massive assistance from other countries to overcome the devastation inflicted by one of the world’s worst earthquakes. The Korean government needs to provide any necessary help to the disaster-stricken neighbor.

The government said it would deploy a 40-member rescue team. An advance party consisting of five rescue personnel and two sniffer dogs has already started rescue operations in Japan. But the government needs to increase the number of rescue operators and provide relief materials. The private sector is also encouraged to participate in the rescue and recovery efforts.

At the same time, the government needs to check the safety of Korean residents, businessmen, students, and tourists in Japan and provide assistance to them if needed.

Recently a spate of earthquakes has occurred around the world, including the one that hit Christchurch in New Zealand on Feb. 22. Korea is thought to be outside of the earthquake zone. But danger comes when we least expect it. We also need to be prepared for earthquakes. The government should invest in earthquake-detection technology and facilities and make it mandatory for newly constructed buildings to adopt a quake-resistance design.
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