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'Considerable' economic impact from quake

13 march 2011, 15:48
Japan's government said Sunday it expects the economic impact of Friday's huge 8.9-magnitude quake, and the devastating tsunami that followed, to be "considerable", AFP reports.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the government would hold a meeting Sunday to assess economic damage from the disaster which laid waste to parts of the northeastern coast and triggered an atomic emergency.

"The quake is expected to have considerable impact on a wide range of our country's economic activities," he said.

Analysts say it will take weeks to get a firm idea of the extent of the damage inflicted on the nation and its economy, as the destruction wrought by the biggest ever quake to strike Japan continues to emerge.

The government has said at least 1,000 people were believed to have lost their lives, but the police chief in badly hit Miyagi prefecture said the death toll there alone is certain to exceed 10,000.

The quake and tsunami have damaged or closed down key ports. Some airports shut in the immediate aftermath have since reopened, but transport infrastructure has been crippled along parts of the northeast.

Many top Japanese firms have said they are suspending operations.

Automakers Toyota, Nissan and Honda have announced the total suspension of production in Japan until at least Monday. Sony has also shuttered plants.

On Sunday Mitsubishi said it would halt production at all three of its domestic plants on Monday and Tuesday. Suzuki motors also said it was suspending all domestic plant operations Monday.

The immediate prospects for Japan's atomic power industry are a key concern following a radioactive leak and an explosion Saturday at the ageing Fukushima No. 1 atomic plant located 250 kilometres (160 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

Japan's nuclear industry provides around a third of the nation's power needs, and the shutdown of reactors may lead to a shortfall in electricity supply that will make power outages necessary, the government warned.

The east of the country is likely to face substantial power shortages due to Friday's massive quake, Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda said.

In total, 11 of Japan's roughly 50 nuclear reactors were shut down following the earthquake, in action taken automatically because they were located in affected areas.

The Bank of Japan said it would do its "utmost" to provide market liquidity and ensure the stability of financial markets on Friday after the quake struck.

The BoJ also announced that the two-day policy board meeting previously scheduled for Monday and Tuesday would now be cut short and conclude on Monday, seen as a sign it may quickly implement extraordinary measures.

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