In the six months since Japan was hit by the triple disaster of an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, the Asian nation has been forced to confront an amorphous crisis that has unfolded on several fronts.
Cleaning up from the tsunami and powerful quake have been herculean tasks in their own right, but the densely populated Pacific nation is also dealing with the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, which sent shock waves through Europe in 1986.
While there have been lingering economic and political aftershocks six months after the disaster in Japan, the ecological effects could last for decades, especially on the nation's east coast.
To put the disaster in perspective, the amount of cancer-causing cesium leaked from the destroyed Fukushima plant is equal to about 15,000 terabecquerels: an amount 168 times larger than the cesium released from the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima in 1945.
Though radiation at Fukushima is now being trapped through clean-up efforts, some 100,000 residents still haven't returned to their homes, and officials say it could be years before they can return.
In fact, it could be decades before they are allowed home, as recent reports have suggested that the ruined reactor cores are still too hot to be handled and removed safely.
"We cannot deny a possibility that some of the residents may not be able to return their homes for a long time in some areas despite our decontamination efforts," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said at a recent news conference.
"We are very sorry."
With the apologies, however, there is some progress.
Around 3,000 workers are on the disaster site each day, cleaning up debris that remains. Workers have also installed filtration systems that decontaminate radioactive water and pump it back into the core to cool the reactors.
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