March 13, 2011 -- The Prime Minister of Japan Naoto Kan called this crisis the most difficult crisis for the nation since World War II. His spokesperson, Nori Shikata, spoke about the rising death toll, the challenges distributing aid, and the status of the damaged nuclear reactor with "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour Sunday morning.
Shikata did not estimate on the possible death toll, but said he expected the current number of 1,000 confirmed dead "will be increasing very quickly."
The Police Chief of the Miyagi Prefecture – the hardest hit area – estimated on Saturday that there could be 10,000 deaths in that area alone.
The international community has offered support in the form of humanitarian and military assistance. The US alone has already sent two USAID teams, and several naval war ships to assist in search and rescue missions.
"US forces in Japan are already providing help of aircraft carrier [USS] Ronald Reagan, and they're also rescue teams arriving from countries like the United States, South Korea, Singapore and others," said Shikata. "Already 71 countries and regions have offered assistance."
The biggest challenge is delivery and acceptance of that aid, and deciding where and how to direct assistance.
"When local authorities are severely damaged, their capacity to deliver or to accept aid from other places is limited," said the prime minister's spokesman. "That's why the prime minister can't [decide] to send [the Japan] Self-Defense Forces to the region."
Speaking on the nuclear reactor damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, Shikata downplayed the severity of the situation. One unit of the nuclear reactor exploded on Saturday as a result of concentration of hydrogen leading to the blast. Shikata said a similar thing may be taking place for another unit, but the government is not worried about possible damage to the reactor itself.
Shikata: This is Not a Nuclear Meltdown
"We don't call this situation meltdown," said Shikata. "This is a regulated controlled situation. The release of minute radioactive material is based on our efforts to take pre-cautionary methods."