It is a phenomenal engineering and waste management challenge. The government estimates it will take three years to deal with the 25m tonnes of debris, which will have to be scrapped, burnt or recycled. This includes at least 16 towns, 95,000 buildings, 23 railway stations and hundreds of kilometres of roads, railway tracks and sea walls.
The World Bank estimates the cost at $235bn (£144bn), making it the world’s most expensive disaster. With charity pouring in from overseas, EU diplomats believe Japan – formerly the world’s biggest donor – may become the world’s biggest aid recipient this year.