As of Saturday, 37 Costa Ricans had reported to the Foreign Ministry that they were alive and in good condition in Japan after the massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on Friday afternoon (Friday morning in Costa Rica). On Sunday, the estimated death toll in Japan surpassed 10,000, and it’s expected to pass 20,000. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the devastation was the worst the nation had experienced since World War II.
According to the Costa Rican Foreign Ministry, an estimated 241 Costa Ricans live in Japan, though none live near the port city of Sendai, which was hit hardest by the quake and subsequent tsunami. Mario Fernandez Silva, the Costa Rican Ambassador to Japan, reported that no Costa Ricans have been listed on the database that contains the names of the victims.
Amid the damage from the tsunami and earthquake, worries over the weekend were exacerbated by the fear that four nuclear reactors in the affected area would overheat and explode, resulting in potentially catastrophic damage and radiation exposure to citizens in the region. On Saturday the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex suffered one explosion and a potential second explosion continues to be a nationwide fear as the temperatures of the reactors at the plant remain exceedingly high. In the wake of the first explosion, thousands of citizens were urged to leave the area due to potential exposure to radiation.
The U.N. nuclear agency declared a state of emergency Sunday at another complex, the Onagawa power plant, after higher-than-permitted levels of radiation were measured there. Japan has a total of 55 reactors nationwide.
The Foreign Ministry said it will continue to release updates on the statuses of Costa Ricans living in Japan during the upcoming days.