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The World

April 13, 2011

Evacuees slam Japan nuclear plant operator



The Finance Ministry is drafting an extra budget to finance post-tsunami reconstruction efforts. Local reports have said the budget could exceed 5 trillion yen ($59 billion).

Underscoring how a supply crunch from the disasters is affecting regions beyond Japan, Toyota Motor Corp., the world's No. 1 automaker, announced it is suspending production in Europe for eight days due to parts shortages. Last week, it said it would temporarily halt car production in North America this month.

Still, work on recovery and reconstruction is progressing. The region took a step forward Wednesday with the reopening of a coastal airport that had been swamped by the tsunami.

Staff at the Sendai airport stood on the tarmac waving as passengers emerged from a JAL Express flight emblazoned with the logo "Hang in there, Japan." It was the first flight since the 32-foot (10-meter) wall of water raced across the airport's runways and slammed cars and aircraft into its terminals.

The area around the airport, which sits about half a mile (a kilometer) from the shoreline, remains a twisted wasteland of mud, uprooted trees and the remnants of smashed buildings and cars. Soldiers were sifting through the debris looking for the bodies of some of the more than 15,000 people still missing after the twin disasters. The final death toll is expected to top 25,000.

The airport will handle only a few daytime flights for now and just one terminal is running, but its opening should help with relief efforts in regional communities virtually obliterated by the tsunami.

"We can only operate in a small area, but I think it's a great step toward recovery," said Naohito Nakano, an operations manager for Japan Airlines.

Hiroshi Abe, 41, whose parents are among the missing, was preparing to board a flight back to the western city of Osaka.

"There's not really anything I can do there now, so I'm flying home," Abe said. "Now that flights are open again I know it will be much easier for me to go back."


Associated Press writers Jay Alabaster in Sendai and Shino Yuasa in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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