Earthquake Death Toll Estimated at 18,000

It's now been ten days since Japan's massive earthquake and tsunami, and police are estimating that an incomprehensible 18,000 people were killed in the disaster. Meanwhile, the worst may be over at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, though higher levels of radioactivity have been detected in spinach and milk at nearby farms. Here's the latest news from Japan:

  • On CNN's State of the Union, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said he believes the worst of the nuclear crisis is over. The power plant's operator, Tepco, has attached a power cable to the badly-damaged Reactor No. 2, and is working on restarting the electric cooling systems; the company also says it's stabilized reactors No. 5 and 6, and is spraying Reactor No. 4 with fire engines. Japan's not out of the woods yet, but signs are encouraging. [Bloomberg]
  • But it's not all good news: Higher levels of radioactivity have been detected in spinach, milk, fava beans and drinking water. The government is still debating whether to "impose restrictions on marketing of spinach and milk"; milk from 27 farms is currently being withheld. [NPR]
  • The 18,000-death figure being cited by the AP is based on the police estimate of Miyagi Prefecture deaths at 15,000, plus the 3,000 reported deaths in the Iwate, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Aomori and Chiba provinces. The official death toll currently stands at 8,649. [AP]
  • Despite initially slowed growth, reconstruction projects should give Japan's economy a boost, according to the World Bank. [The Guardian]
  • Debate currently rages on in Japan over baseball, and the popular Central League's decision to start the season only four days late—even though at least one team's stadium has been destroyed and another may need repairs. [NYT]

[image via AP]