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Message from the Prime Minister

Sunday, March 13 at 7:50pm, 2011
[Provisional Translation]

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: We are now entering the third night since the earthquake occurred. I offer my heartfelt condolences to the victims of this disaster. I would also like to express my thanks and sincere respect to you, my fellow citizens, especially those in the disaster-hit areas, who have acted calmly despite extremely trying circumstances.

All throughout the day today we continued on from yesterday, sparing no effort in our work to rescue lives. Thus far the Self-Defense Forces, police, Fire and Disaster Management Agency, and Japan Coast Guard, together with assistance from abroad, have succeeded in saving approximately 12,000 lives.

To briefly introduce the disaster assistance systems operating today, 50,000 members of the Ground, Maritime, and Air Self-Defense Forces have been mobilized, and we are currently preparing a system that is 100,000 strong. More than 2,500 police officers from all over Japan are also assisting within the affected areas. Over 1,100 firefighting and emergency response teams are present in the area. In addition, more than 200 disaster medical assistance teams are working in the afflicted area. As there are considerable constraints on roads, the transport of food, water, blankets, and other such items by sea routes is also now being considered in addition to air routes, and we are currently focusing on such transport options for these items. Having also designated this a "Disaster of Extreme Severity," we are now examining additional legal measures.

Against this backdrop, the alarming situation remains ongoing regarding the nuclear power plants in Fukushima that are the cause of such concern among the public. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano will be providing a detailed report on this point later.

In this regard, there are some matters about which I would like to gain the understanding of the public, along with some points I wish to request of the Japanese people. A large number of electrical generating stations have sustained damage, including the nuclear power plants in Fukushima, and the supply of electricity is in an especially severe situation in the areas serviced by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and Tohoku Electric Power Company.

The national government is providing direction for the greatest possible efforts to be made, such as resourcing electricity to these two electric companies from other companies. We are also urging industries and households to conserve energy.

However, as the restoration of services cannot be foreseen in the immediate future, there is the possibility of a situation developing in which a sufficient supply of electricity cannot be ensured through these measures alone, with entire regions suffering large-scale blackouts if the situation continues as is. As sudden large-scale blackouts would impart an immense blow to people's daily lives and to economic activity, we must avoid this situation at all costs.

For this reason I have granted approval to TEPCO for the implementation of planned power outages within TEPCO's service area, beginning tomorrow. The specifics of this will be explained by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry upon the conclusion of my remarks. This has been an agonizing decision that will cause substantial inconvenience for the public. Not only will electricity be inaccessible, but also various other adverse effects are conceivable, such as in some cases impacts upon gas and water lines or other lifeline services, or impacts upon the use of medical and healthcare equipment.

We have established a crisis response meeting to address this issue, particularly government responses to it, so as to tackle it by setting up resilient responses to these issues of concern that will accompany power outages. We will be formulating reliable responses and providing information on them, and I appeal for your regarding these. I also call on you to undertake various resilient means in connection with the power outages in order to maintain your daily activities.

I consider this earthquake and tsunami along with the current situation regarding the nuclear power plants to be in some regards the most severe crisis in the 65 years since the end of the Second World War. I believe that whether or not we Japanese are able to overcome this crisis is something now being asked of all Japanese individually. We Japanese have overcome many very trying situations in the past to create our modern society of peace and prosperity. I firmly believe that through our citizens working together to respond to this great earthquake and tsunami, we will certainly be able to overcome this crisis.

Through this resolve, let us all now - each and every individual - firmly reinforce our bonds with our families, friends, and communities, overcoming this crisis to once more build an even better Japan. I appeal sincerely to all of my fellow citizens regarding this situation and thereby make this request to the people of Japan. I strongly urge your ongoing cooperation regarding these matters.