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Tsunami hits north-eastern Japan after massive earthquake, triggering nuclear crisis

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  • #16

    March 11, 2011 -- The Japanese government has declared a nuclear power emergency situation following Friday's devastating earthquake, although the prime minister, Naoto Kan, said that there had been no reports of radiation leaks at any of the country's nuclear facilities. The chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, said the nuclear power plant in Fukushima developed a mechanical failure in the reactor cooling system after it was shut down during the earthquake. He said the measure was a precaution and there was no radiation leak at the Fukushima No 1 power plant. He said the facility was not in immediate danger. "Parts of nuclear plants were automatically shut down but we haven't confirmed any effects induced by radioactive materials outside the facilities," Kan said.

    Separately a fire broke out at Tohoku Electric Power Co's Onagawa nuclear plant in northeastern Japan, after the region was rocked by a series of powerful earthquakes and several tsunamis, some reportedly high as 10 metres. The blaze was in a building housing the turbine at the Onagawa plant in Miyagi prefecture. Smoke was observed coming out of the building, which is separate from the plant's reactor. Eleven nuclear reactors were automatically shut down in the quake-affected area, the industry ministry said. The four nuclear power plants closest to the epicentre of Friday's earthquake had all been safely shut down, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said, adding that it was seeking more information. "The four Japanese nuclear power plants closest to the quake have been safely shut down," the IAEA said in a statement. "The agency has sent an offer of good offices to Japan, should the country request support." The danger is not over, however. Officials have warned of further strong aftershocks and tsunamis.

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    • #17

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      • #18

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        • #19

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          • #20

            March 11, 2011 -- (Reuters) - The U.S. military did not provide any coolant for a Japanese nuclear plant affected by a massive earthquake on Friday, U.S. officials said. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier had said that U.S. Air Force "assets" had delivered "some really important coolant" to a Japanese nuclear power plant. One U.S. official said he believed Clinton was told Japan had requested the material, that the United States had agreed to provide it, and that an operation to do so was under way. Ultimately, however, Japan did not need assistance from the United States but Clinton did not appear to have been updated before she made her public remarks. "We understand that ultimately the Japanese government handled the situation on its own," said another U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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            • #21

              March 11, 2011 -- Japan was battling to avoid a nuclear disaster after a reactor was critically damaged by the country’s biggest earthquake. Prime minister Naoto Kan declared a nuclear emergency as his trade minister admitted that a radiation leak might occur at the Fukushima power plant. The reactor’s cooling system failed after the 8.9-magnitude tremor hit northern Japan at 2.46pm local time. Pressure in the reactor was rising despite the U.S. Air Force flying extra coolant to the plant. Japan's massive earthquake caused a power outage that disabled a nuclear reactor's cooling system, triggering evacuation orders for about 3,000 residents as the government declared its first-ever state of emergency at a nuclear plant.

              At least 1,000 people were feared dead last night after the “superquake” 81 miles out to sea triggered a tsunami that sent a 30ft wall of water crashing into Japan’s Pacific coast. Police said 200 to 300 bodies were found in Sendai, 150 miles north of Tokyo. Another 151 were confirmed killed elsewhere, with 547 missing. At least 800 people were injured. Fires caused by the tremor were burning in towns and cities along a 1,300-mile stretch of coastline. An oil refinery was one of dozens of buildings ablaze, as emergency workers struggled to cope with the scale of the disaster.

              The earthquake was 1,000 times more powerful than the tremor that devastated Christchurch in New Zealand last month, and the world’s seventh biggest since records began. Tourists were feared to be among those unaccounted for after a ship with 100 people on board was reported to have been lost at sea and two trains, one of them a bullet train carrying hundreds of passengers in the Miyagi region, were listed as missing. The Foreign Office said it had been contacted by 400 British families concerned that they had been unable to get in touch with relatives in Japan, but had no information on any British casualties.

              Experts were fighting to prevent a nuclear leak at Fukushima, 100 miles north of Tokyo. More than 3,000 people living within two miles of the plant were evacuated, with those within a seven-mile radius told to stay indoors. At first, the government insisted there was no risk of a leak from the plant and that everything was “under control”, despite the failure of the cooling system. But a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power, which owns the plant, admitted later that there was a problem. “Pressure has risen in the container of the reactor and we are trying to deal with it,” he said. His comments were followed by a statement from Japan’s nuclear safety agency saying radioactive vapour would be released to ease the pressure in the reactor, which had risen to one and a half times the norm. Then came an admission from Japan’s trade minister that “a small radiation leak” could occur at the plant.

              Millions of Japanese prepared to spend an uneasy night in fear of a further major tremor as more than 50 aftershocks were reported. The worst affected area appeared to be in and around the sprawling port of Sendai, where the tsunami swallowed everything in its path, churning up houses, cars, trees and boats before dumping them several miles inland. Seismologists picked up the first signs of the tremor in time for broadcasters to put out an emergency warning one minute before it shook northern Japan, giving millions of people time to take cover.

              Japan, which sits at the junction of three continental plates on the Pacific “ring of fire”, experiences up to 2,000 noticeable tremors every year. Newer buildings are designed to withstand even the biggest earthquakes. But nothing could prepare the country for the tsunami which followed minutes later. Television news helicopters captured footage of an unstoppable tide of sludge as it spread across the parched rice fields around Sendai like ink spilt on paper. Houses, cars, trees and anything else that stood in the way were churned up and became part of the advancing morass, adding to its destructive power as it moved hundreds of yards inland. Footage showed drivers jumping out of their cars on a bridge in the city and watching as the water of the harbour surged up the main bridge piles, dismasting several large fishing boats as they were driven forward by the tide and crushed beneath the concrete arches. Some of those stranded in the upstairs rooms in their homes waved white sheets out of windows, desperate to attract the attention of helicopters hovering overhead.

              The family of Hannah Craggs, a 27-year-old English teacher who works in Sendai, said they feared for her safety last night after failing to make any contact with her since the earthquake. Her father, Gary, 51, from Wolverhampton, said: “We haven’t given up hope, we just want to hear from Hannah. It’s just unbelievable – she is due to come home in two weeks. She posted on her travel blog just a couple of days ago that she had survived her first quake out there – she said a 7.3 hit offshore a couple of days ago. They say when one hits there is often another to follow and that’s been the case here.”

              In the port town of Ofunato, more than 300 houses were reported to have been destroyed, and a large section of Kesennuma, a town of 70,000 people in the Miyagi district, burned furiously into the night after fuel leaking from damaged cars caught fire and spread unchecked, with the emergency services unable to reach the area. “We were shaken so strongly for a while that we needed to hold on to something in order not to fall,” said a local government official in Kurihara in Miyagi. “We couldn’t escape the building immediately because the tremors continued.”

              In the coastal town of Aomori, at least five ocean-going ships were upended by the wave, coming to rest with the red hulls exposed as the waters drove inland, bursting sea defences and flooding harbourside streets. In Miyagi prefecture a schoolboy was swept away. Five people were reported to have been crushed to death by falling buildings in the Tokyo area. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Ken Hoshi, a local government official in Ishinomaki, a port city in Miyagi prefecture. “The water came as far as to the train station, hundreds of metres away from the coast.” The 41-year-old official said his city had turned into a flood zone. “I’m worried because I can’t contact my family. But because it’s my duty, I’m braced to spend the night here.”

              After years of being drilled in earthquake survival procedures, television pictures showed many residents reacting with remarkable composure and calm. Some office workers remained on the telephone as the buildings shook around them and sent files and books tumbling to the floor. Others were less assured. “I dashed out of my office. I sort of panicked and left behind my mobile phone and belongings,” said Aya Nakamura, an office worker in Tokyo.” “You see the crane on top of that tall building under construction? I thought it might fall off the building because all the buildings around me were shaking badly,” she added. Asagi Machida, a 27-year-old web designer, was walking near a coffee shop when the earthquake hit Tokyo. “The images from the New Zealand earthquake are still fresh in my mind so I was really scared,” she said, “I couldn’t believe such a big earthquake was happening here.”

              As the 500mph tidal wave spread out across the Pacific, tsunami warnings were issued as far away as Chile, but early fears of low-lying islands being swamped appeared to prove unfounded. Hundreds of people living in parts of California were told to evacuate their beachside homes as a precaution, with the tidal waves expected to take 24 hours to subside. The Japanese government said the earthquake, which was felt 1,500 miles away in Beijing, had caused “tremendous damage” and left seven million homes without power. In Tokyo, several people were injured when the roof of a hall collapsed during a graduation ceremony.

              The Queen sent a message to Emperor Akihito, saying: “I was saddened to hear of the tragic loss of life caused by the earthquake which has struck north-east Japan today.” David Cameron said the earthquake was a “terrible reminder of the destructive power of nature” and sent his sympathies to the people of Japan, while William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said Britain was ready to send humanitarian aid and search and rescue teams. The last time a major earthquake hit Tokyo was in 1923, when the Great Kanto Earthquake claimed more than 140,000 lives, many of them in fires. In 1995 the Kobe earthquake killed more than 6,400 people. The Foreign Office set up a helpline — 020 70080000 — for the families of British nationals living in Japan who are unable to contact loved ones.

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              • #22

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                • #23

                  TOKYO, March 11, 2011 (Reuters) -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it had lost its ability to control pressure in some of the reactors of a second nuclear power plant at its quake-hit Fukushima facility in northeastern Japan. Pressure is stable inside the reactors but rising in the containment vessels, a spokesman said, although he did not know if there would be a need to release pressure at the plant at this point, which would involve a release of radiation.

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                  • #24

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                    • #25

                      March 12, 2011 -- Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan visited a quake-stricken nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture on Saturday and said that small amounts of radiation have been released from one of the reactors. As he visited other areas in northeastern Japan affected by Friday’s earthquake by helicopter, the Prime Minister saw the full extent of the catastrophe the nation now faces. “I realized the huge extent of the tsunami damage,” Mr. Kan said at a press conference upon his return to Tokyo. The prime minister also said that Saturday is a critical day for rescue teams to find survivors. The 50,000 rescue personnel deployed to the hardest-hit regions, including Japan’s Self Defence Force, will do their utmost to help those in need, he said.

                      Regarding the controlled release of a small amount of radioactive steam from Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in order to reduce mounting pressure that could lead to a meltdown, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the steam is not expected to cause any immediate threat to people’s health. “We are taking every possible measure to prevent disastrous developments,” Mr. Edano said, adding that public should remain alert as more aftershocks are highly likely.

                      The National Police Agency said on Saturday that the combined number of those who died or are unaccounted for following the 8.8 magnitude quake hitting had risen to more than 1,000. The agency said that 398 bodies have been recovered in nine prefectures, including Tokyo. Much of the mortal damage was caused by tsunami waves of more than 10-meters high wiping out whole cities in torrents that swept inland of Pacific coastal regions up to 12 kilometers, devouring everything in their way. A total of 805 people are still unaccounted for following Japan ‘s biggest-ever earthquake disaster. At least 15 aftershocks, from 5-6.8 magnitude, hit off Japan’s east coast on Saturday following a massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan Friday afternoon.

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                      • #26

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                        • #27

                          FUKUSHIMA, March 12, 2011 -- Japan warned of a meltdown on Saturday at a nuclear reactor damaged when a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the northeast coast, but said the risk of radiation contamination was small. Media reports estimate at least 1,300 people may have been killed by the biggest earthquake ever recorded in Japan and then a 10-metre tsunami that swept inland. Experts said any threat of widespread radiation leaks would be contained as long as the reactor's outer container is intact. State broadcaster NHK quoted officials as saying there was no need to extend an evacuation area already set up around the damaged plant. Authorities have been scrambling to reduce pressure at two nuclear power plants in Fukushima, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, damaged by the quake, which measured a massive 8.9, the biggest since records began in Japan 140 years ago. Jiji news agency quoted nuclear authorities as saying that there was a high possibility that nuclear fuel rods at Tokyo Electric Power's (Tepco's) Daiichi No.1 reactor may be melting or have melted. Experts said if that is the case, it means the reactor is heating up. If that is not halted, such as by venting steam which releases small amounts of radiation, there is a chance it would result in a rupture of the reactor pressure vessel. But the risk of contamination can be minimised as long as the external container structure is intact, they said. The worry then becomes whether the quake has weakened the structure. There has been no official word so far on whether the structure was damaged in the quake.

                          Japanese officials and experts have been at pains to say that while there would be radiation leaks, they would be very small and have dismissed suggestions of a repeat of a Chernobyl-type disaster. "No Chernobyl is possible at a light water reactor. Loss of coolant means a temperature rise, but it also will stop the reaction," Naoto Sekimura, a professor at the University of Tokyo, said. "Even in the worst-case scenario, that would mean some radioactive leakage and equipment damage, but not an explosion. If venting is done carefully, there will be little leakage. Certainly not beyond the 3 km radius."

                          The tremor was so huge that thousands fled their homes from coastlines around the Pacific Rim, as far away as North and South America, fearful of a tsunami. Most appeared to have been spared anything more serious than some high waves, unlike Japan's northeast coastline which was hammered by the huge tsunami that turned houses and ships into floating debris as it surged into cities and villages, sweeping aside everything in its path. "I thought I was going to die," said Wataru Fujimura, a 38-year-old sales representative in Koriyama, Fukushima, north of Tokyo and close to area worst hit by the quake. "Our furniture and shelves had all fallen over and there were cracks in the apartment building, so we spent the whole night in the car... Now we're back home trying to clean.

                          The unfolding natural disaster, which has been followed by dozens of aftershocks, prompted offers of search and rescue help from 50 countries. In one of the worst-hit residential areas, people buried under rubble could be heard calling out for rescue, Kyodo news agency reported. TV footage showed staff at one hospital waving banners with the words "FOOD" and "HELP" from a rooftop. In Tokyo, tens of thousands of office workers were stranded overnight after the quake shut down public transport. Many were forced to bed down where they could, with newspapers to lie on and briefcases for pillows. Kyodo said at least 116,000 people in Tokyo had been unable to return home on Friday evening due to transport disruption.

                          The northeastern Japanese city of Kesennuma, with a population of 74,000, was hit by widespread fires and one-third of the city was under water. City mayor Shigeo Sugawara said: "A huge number of houses have been washed away." He said fuel storage tanks had been destroyed, sending oil flowing out which then caught fire. The airport in coastal city Sendai, home to one million people, was on fire, Japanese media said. "Sendai (city) is now completely sunk underwater," said limousine driver Yoshikatsu Takayabe, 52. "What do I want the government to do? I can't flush the toilet, I want the water back on in my house." TV footage from Friday showed a black torrent of water carrying cars and wrecked homes at high speed across farmland near Sendai, 300 km (180 miles) northeast of Tokyo. Ships had been flung onto a harbour wharf, where they lay helplessly. Kyodo news agency reported that contact had been lost with four trains in the coastal area.

                          The disaster poses a huge challenge for Kan's government which has come under such concerted attack from the opposition and within the ruling Democratic Party (DJP) that it has struggled to implement any policy. Just hours before the quake struck, Kan was rejecting demands that he resign, his political future looking increasingly bleak and unable even to muster enough support to ensure the passage of bills needed to enact the new budget. But after the tremor, politicians pushed for an emergency budget to fund relief efforts, with Kan urging them to "save the country", Kyodo reported. Japan is already the most heavily indebted major economy in the world, meaning any additional borrowing by the government would be closely scrutinised by financial markets.

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                          • #28

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                            • #29

                              March 12, 2011 (CNN) -- An explosion has been reported near a nuclear plant in northeastern Japan's Fukushima prefecture, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said Saturday, citing the country's nuclear and industrial safety agency. The Tokyo Electric Company said some workers on the ground were injured, NHK reported. It was not immediately clear where the blast occurred in relation to the Fukushima Daiichi plant, or what caused it. Earlier Saturday Japan's nuclear agency said workers were continuing efforts to cool fuel rods at the plant after a small amount of radioactive material escaped into the air. The agency said there was a strong possibility that the small amount of radioactive cesium monitors detected was caused by the melting of a fuel rod at the plant, adding that engineers were continuing to cool the fuel rods by pumping water around them. A spokesman for Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Agency earlier said atomic material had seeped out of one of the five nuclear reactors at the Daiichi plant, located about 160 miles (260 kilometers) north of Tokyo.

                              Authorities evacuated people living near the reactor after an earthquake and tsunami crippled cooling systems there, as well as at another of the Tokyo Electric Power Company's nuclear plants. The evacuations notwithstanding, the nuclear safety agency asserted Saturday that the radiation at the plants did not pose an immediate threat to nearby residents' health, the Kyodo News Agency said. The International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday on its website that the quake and tsunami knocked out a Daiichi reactor's off-site power source, which is used to cool down the radioactive material inside. Then, the tsunami waves disabled the backup source - diesel generators - and authorities were working to get these operating.

                              On Saturday Japanese nuclear authorities said the cooling system had also failed at three of the four reactors at the Fukushima Daini plant - located in another town in northeastern Japan's Fukushima prefecture. Janie Eudy told CNN that her 52-year-old husband, Joe, was working at the Daiichi plant and was injured by falling and shattering glass when the quake struck. As he and others were planning to evacuate, at their managers' orders, the tsunami waves struck and washed buildings from the nearby town past the plant. "To me, it sounded like hell on earth," she said, adding her husband - a native of Pineville, Louisiana - ultimately escaped. The power company reported Saturday that about 1 million households were without power, and that power shortages may occur due to damage at the company's facility. "We kindly ask our customers to cooperate with us in reducing usage of power," the company said.

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                              • #30

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