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Economic Toll From Japan Disaster Could Exceed $300B

Wed, 03/23/2011 - 4:18am

TOKYO (AP) — The government expects the economic toll from Japan's earthquake and tsunami could exceed $300 billion, considerably higher than other estimates, a report said Wednesday,

Economy Minister Kaoru Yosano will present the estimate of 15 trillion yen to 25 trillion yen ($185 billion to $300 billion) at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun said.

The March 11 magnitude-9.0 quake and tsunami devastated Japan's northeastern coast and triggered a crisis at a nuclear power plant that forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.

Utilities have imposed power rationing, many factories remain closed and key rail lines are impassable.

The government reportedly plans to inject public money into banks to help support lending as companies rebuild. Funds could come from a fund of 11 trillion yen ($135 billion) that is still available under a law on emergency support to banks passed after the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs had estimated quake damage of as much as $200 billion. The World Bank on Monday said damage might total up to $235 billion.

Tokyo also is working on plans to provide low-interest loans of up to 10 trillion yen ($122 billion) to help companies recover from quake damage, according to an earlier news report.

The quake damaged factories belonging to major automakers including Nissan Motor Co. and hundreds of smaller manufacturers. Power cuts due to the shutdown of 11 of Japan's 54 nuclear power plants also have disrupted production.

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