18 Apr 2011

Many unhappy with handling of nuclear crisis - poll

9:21 pm on 18 April 2011

A majority of people in Japan disapprove of the government's handling of the nuclear crisis at a crippled nuclear power plant, opinion polls suggest.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant was badly damaged when a 9.0-magnitude quake triggered a tsunami that devastated much of northeast Japan on 11 March.

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), says it expects to bring the crisis under control by the end of the year.

But the polls, published in three national newspapers, suggest that Japanese people are losing patience, the BBC reports.

Two-thirds of those surveyed supported increased taxes to pay for rebuilding.

Japan's recovery bill has been estimated at $US300 billion - the most expensive natural disaster in history. But the government has said that figure might be an underestimate.

The latest police figures put the death toll at 13,843, while more than 14,000 people remain unaccounted for.

Half of those killed were elderly; 95% of the dead in Miyagi prefecture, one of the worst-hit areas, drowned, according to new police statistics.

Engineers are still struggling to bring the Fukushima plant under control after vital cooling systems were knocked out.

Tepco said on Sunday that it hoped to reduce radiation leaks in three months and to cool the reactors within nine months.