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Quake 'caused £145bn of damage'

Japan may need five years to rebuild after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami which have caused up to 235 billion US dollars (£145 billion) of damage, the World Bank has said.

The March 11 disaster - which killed more than 8,600 people and left more than 12,800 missing in north eastern Japan - is likely to shave up to 0.5% from the country's economic growth this year, the bank said in a report. The impact will be concentrated in the first half of the year, it said.

"Damage to housing and infrastructure has been unprecedented," the World Bank said. "Growth should pick up though in subsequent quarters as reconstruction efforts, which could last five years, accelerate."

The bank cited damage estimates between 123 billion dollars (£75.8 billion) and 235 billion dollars (£145 billion) and cost to private insurers of between 14 billion dollars (£8.6 billion) and 33 billion dollars (£20.3 billion). It said the government will spend 12 billion dollars (£7.4 billion) on reconstruction in the current national budget and "much more" in the next one.

It said a crippled nuclear power station in the north east that authorities are racing to regain control of is an unfolding situation that poses uncertainties and challenges. Traces of radiation first detected in spinach and milk from farms near the nuclear plant are turning up farther away in tap water, rain and even dust. In all cases, the government said the radiation levels were too small to pose an immediate risk to health.

A short-term drop in Japan's consumer demand and manufacturing production will also hurt trade with regional neighbours, the bank said. South Korean electronics companies have seen the price of some memory chips from Japan rise 20% because of disrupted production, while Thai car exporters may run out of Japanese parts next month, it said.

"Disruption to production networks, especially in automotive and electronics industries, could continue to pose problems," the bank said. "Japan is a major producer of parts, components and capital goods which supply East Asia's production chains."

Japan's north east, the epicentre of the disaster, is home to ports, steel mills, oil refineries, nuclear power plants and manufacturers of auto and electronics components. Many of those facilities have been damaged, while nationwide power shortages have severely harmed auto and electronics production.

Meanwhile, an 80-year-old woman and her teenage grandson have been plucked from the wreckage of their home, nine days after the earthquake and tsunami. Rescuers patrolling the city of Ishinomaki heard cries for help from 16-year-old Jin Abe, shivering on the roof of his collapsed wooden home.

Draped in layers of towels, he had only been able to crawl out of the wreckage on Sunday. Still trapped inside was his grandmother, Sumi Abe. The two had been stuck there since the magnitude-9.0 quake struck.


From Belfast Telegraph