Japanese victime suspected of radiation exposure 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Yomiuri Shimbun)
SENDAI, Japan -
Japan was fighting to contain what could be the world's worst nuclear
disaster in 25 years after the cooling failed at a second reactor
crippled by a quake which may have killed over 10,000.
aftershocks continued to shake Japan's main island as the desperate
search pressed on for survivors from Friday's massive earthquake and
tsunami. The Japanese Meteorological Agency said Sunday that it has upgraded to 9.0 the magnitude of the massive earthquake that struck Japan over the weekend.
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broadcaster NHK said more than 10,000 people may have been killed as
the wall of water hit, reducing whole towns to rubble.
Thousands were evacuated on Saturday following an explosion and leak
from the facility's No. 1 reactor in Fukushima, 240 km (150 miles) north
of Tokyo, where there is believed to have been a partial meltdown of
the fuel rods.
Engineers were pumping in seawater, trying to prevent the same thing
from happening at the No. 3 reactor, the government said in apparent acknowledgment that it had moved too slowly on Saturday.
"Unlike the No.1 reactor, we ventilated and injected water at an early
stage," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news
Asked if fuel rods were partially melting in the No. 1 reactor, Edano
said: "There is that possibility. We cannot confirm this because it is
in the reactor. But we are dealing with it under that assumption ." He
said fuel rods may have partially deformed at the No. 3 reactor but a
meltdown was unlikely to have occurred.
Nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said radiation
levels around the Fukushima Daiichi plant had risen above the safety
limit but that it did not mean an "immediate threat" to human health.
Edano said there was a risk of an explosion at the building housing the
No. 3 reactor, but that it was unlikely to affect the reactor core
The government said it planned electricity blackouts in areas covered by TEPCO lasting a few weeks.
The disaster prompted an angry response from an anti-nuclear energy NGO in Japan which said it should have been foreseen.
"A nuclear disaster which the promoters of nuclear power in Japan said
wouldn't happen is in progress," the Citizens' Nuclear Information
Center said. "It is occurring as a result of an earthquake that they
said would not happen."
Thousands spent another freezing night huddled in blankets over heaters
in emergency shelters along the northeastern coast, a scene of
devastation after the 8.9 magnitude quake sent a 10-meter (33-foot) wave
surging through towns and cities in the Miyagi region, including its
main coastal city of Sendai.
In one of the heavily hit areas, Rikuzentakata, a city close to the
coast, more than 1,000 people took refuge in a school high on a hill.
Some were talking with friends and family around a stove. The radio was
giving updates. On the walls were posters where names of survivors at
the shelter were listed.
Some were standing in front of the lists, weeping.
Kyodo news agency, which said the number of dead or unaccounted was
expected to exceed 2,000, reported that there had been no contact with
around 10,000 people in one town, more than half its population.
A Japanese official said there were 190 people within a 10-km radius of
the nuclear plant when radiation levels rose and 22 people have been
confirmed to have suffered contamination. Workers in protective clothing
were scanning people arriving at evacuation centers for radioactive
The crisis has triggered anti-nuclear power protests in Europe. Up to
60,000 protesters formed a 45-km (27-mile) human chain in Germany to
denounce the government's policy of extending the life of nuclear
Officials in Japan ordered the evacuation of a 20-km (12-mile) radius
zone around the plant and 10 km (6 miles) around another nuclear
facility close by.
Around 140,000 people had left the area, while authorities prepared to
distribute iodine to protect people from radioactive exposure.
"There is radiation leaking out, and since the possibility [of being
exposed] is high, it's quite scary," said Masanori Ono, 17, standing in
line on Saturday to be scanned for radiation at an evacuation center in
The wind over the plant would continue blowing from the south, which
could affect residents north of the facility, an official at Japan's
Meteorological Agency said.
"The use of seawater means they have run out of options. If they had any
other water they would have used it. It likely means the power for
their pumps is gone," said David Lochbaum, director of the Union of
Concerned Scientists Nuclear Safety Project.