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

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  • #46

    Fukushima, March 12, 2011 -- Radiation leaked from a damaged Japanese nuclear reactor north of Tokyo on Saturday, the government said, after an explosion blew the roof off the facility in the wake of a massive earthquake. The developments raised fears of a meltdown at the plant as officials scrambled to contain what could be the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl explosion in 1986 that shocked the world. The Japanese plant was damaged by Friday's 8.9-magnitude earthquake, which sent a 10m tsunami ripping through towns and cities across the northeast coast. Japanese media estimate that at least 1,300 people were killed.

    "We are looking into the cause and the situation and we'll make that public when we have further information," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said after confirming the explosion and radiation leak at the plant. Edano said an evacuation radius of 10km from the stricken 40-year-old Daiichi 1 reactor plant in Fukushima prefecture was adequate, but an hour later the boundary was extended to 20km. TV footage showed vapour rising from the plant, 240km north of Tokyo.

    Along Japan's northeast coast, rescue workers searched through the rubble of destroyed buildings, cars and boats, looking for survivors in the hardest-hit areas such as the city of Sendai, 300km northeast of Tokyo. Dazed residents hoarded water and huddled in makeshift shelters in near-freezing temperatures. Aerial footage showed buildings and trains strewn over mudflats like children's toys. "All the shops are closed, this is one of the few still open. I came to buy and stock up on diapers, drinking water and food," Kunio Iwatsuki, 68, told Reuters in Mito city, where residents queued outside a damaged supermarket for supplies.

    Across the coastline, survivors clambered over nearly impassable roads. In Iwanuma, not far from Sendai, people spelled SOS out on the roof of a hospital surrounded by water, one of many desperate scenes. The earthquake and tsunami, and now the radiation leak, present Japan's government with its biggest challenge in a generation.

    The explosion at Chernobyl's nuclear plant's fourth reactor in 1986 sent thousands of tonnes of toxic nuclear dust billowing across the Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. It was the worst civil nuclear disaster. The blast at the Japanese nuclear facility came as plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) worked desperately to reduce pressures in the core of the reactor. The company has had a rocky past in an industry plagued by scandal. In 2002, the president of the country's largest power utility was forced to resign along with four other senior executives, taking responsibility for suspected falsification of nuclear plant safety records.

    NHK television and Jiji news agency said the outer structure of the reactor building that houses the reactor appeared to have blown off, but nuclear experts said this did not necessarily mean the nuclear reactor had been breached. Earlier the operator released what it said was a tiny amount of radioactive steam to reduce the pressure and the danger was minimal because tens of thousands of people had already been evacuated from the vicinity. Reuters journalists were in Fukushima prefecture, about 70km from the plant. Other media have reported police roadblocks in the area to prevent people getting closer.

    Friday's 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. In one of the worst-hit residential areas, people buried under rubble could be heard calling out for rescue, Kyodo news agency reported earlier. The international community started to send disaster relief teams on Saturday to help Japan, with the UN sending a group to help coordinate work. Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology said the earth's axis shifted 25cm as a result of the quake and the US Geological Survey said the main island of Japan had shifted 2.4m.


    • #47

      TOKYO, March 12, 2011 -- Japan today scrambled hard to prevent meltdowns at its nuclear power plants, declaring a state of emergency at five atomic reactors and evacuating thousands of residents, as it launched a mammoth relief operation in its northeast devastated by a massive earthquake that likely left over 1,000 people dead. "This is the largest earthquake since the Meiji Era (1868-1912), and it is believed that more than 1,000 people have lost their lives," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said at a meeting at the emergency disaster headquarters, a day after the monster 8.9-magnitude tremor struck, unleashing a devastating tsunami. He expressed his government's determination to bring relief to the disaster-hit areas.

      In Fukushima Prefecture, there were reports that radiation 1,000 times above normal was detected in the control room of one nuclear plant, although officials said levels outside its gates were only eight times above normal and asserted that were no health hazards as of now. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said it issued an unprecedented order for the electricity firm running the atomic unit to open a valve at the plant to release pressure in the container housing the reactor following the powerful earthquake. The local government, acting on orders from Prime Minister Naoto Kan , instructed about 3,000 residents living within a 10-kilometer radius of the No. 1 nuclear plant in the region and within a 3-kilometer radius of the No. 2 plant to evacuate. A state of emergency was declared at two reactors at Japan's Daiichi and three units at its nearby Fukushima Daini site, media reports said.

      The National Police Agency was quoted by Kyodo as saying that the total number of those died and were unaccounted for in yesterday's catastrophic earthquake topped 1,000, as some areas suffered devastating damage mainly due to tsunami waves of up to 33-foot high. Four trains running in a coastal area of Miyagi and Iwate prefectures remained unaccounted for, the train operator said. It is not known how many people were aboard the trains that were running on East Japan Railway Co.'s Ofunato, Senseki and Kesennuma lines on the Pacific coast when the quake hit northern Japan. The company said earlier that another train on the Senseki Line was found derailed near Nobiru Station after the quake. The Miyagi prefectural police today rescued nine passengers from the train by helicopter, Kyodo said. The number of partially or completely destroyed buildings reached 3,400, while there 200 incidents of fire at quake-affected areas. Some 181 welfare facilities, including nursing homes, had been damaged.


      • #48

        March 12, 2011 (CNN) -- An explosion at an earthquake-damaged nuclear plant was not caused by damage to the nuclear reactor but by a pumping system that failed as crews tried to bring the reactor's temperature down, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Saturday. The next step for workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant will be to flood the reactor containment structure with sea water to bring the reactor's temperature down to safe levels, he said. The effort is expected to take two days. Radiation levels have fallen since the explosion and there is no immediate danger, Edano said. But authorities were nevertheless expanding the evacuation to include a radius of 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) around the plant. The evacuation previously reached out to 10 kilometers.

        The explosion about 3:30 p.m. Saturday sent white smoke rising above the plant a day after a massive earthquake and tsunami crippled cooling systems at the plant in northeastern Japan. Four workers were injured in the blast. The exact circumstances of the explosion remained unclear. Kyodo News Agency, citing Tokyo Electric Power Company, reported that the roof of a reactor at the plant collapsed after the explosion. Before Edano's announcement, Malcolm Grimston, associate fellow for energy, environment and development at London's Chatham House, said the explosion indicated that "it's clearly a serious situation, but that in itself does not necessarily mean major (nuclear) contamination."

        Japanese public broadcaster NHK said the injured workers were in the process of cooling a nuclear reactor at the plant by injecting water into its core. The Fukushima prefecture government said hourly radiation levels at the plant had reached levels allowable for ordinary people over the course of a year, Kyodo reported. 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 radioactive cesium monitors detected was from the melting of a fuel rod at the plant, adding that engineers were continuing to cool the fuel rods by pumping water around them. Cesium is a byproduct of the nuclear fission process that occurs in nuclear plants.

        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 the earthquake and tsunami crippled cooling systems there, as well as at another Tokyo Electric Power Company nuclear plant in Japan's Fukushima Prefecture. "This is a situation that has the potential for a nuclear catastrophe. It's basically a race against time, because what has happened is that plant operators have not been able to cool down the core of at least two reactors," said Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. By late Saturday, authorities had extended the evacuation area to 20 kilometers around the Daiichi plant, Kyodo reported. 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 northeaster Japan's Fukushima Prefecture. Authorities also ordered the release of valves at affected reactors at the two plants Saturday - a move that experts said was likely done to release growing pressure inside as high temperatures caused water to boil and produce excess steam. 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. James Acton, a physicist who examined the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant after a 2007 earthquake, told CNN that releasing the valves at the two power plants might spew a relatively small amount of radioactive material into the atmosphere. "The big problem is if it can't cool and the (reactors') core starts to melt - then you have the possibility of a greater release of radioactivity into the environment," Acton said. If that happens, "there's a possibility of cancer in the long term - that's the main hazard here."


        • #49


          • #50

            March 12, 2011 -- Nearly 10,000 people are missing from a Japanese port town, a news agency is reporting. The coastal town of Minamisanriku, just 290 miles north of Tokyo, Japan, has been devastated by the tsunami. The Japanese state broadcast agency has reported that nearly 10,000 people are unaccounted for in the town, in Miyagi prefecture, which has a population of 19,000. Reports are coming in that the town was literally 'washed away' and that many buildings have been completely destroyed. The confirmed death toll in Japan is at 574, but thousands are still unaccounted for. Four trains are still missing. Fresh aftershocks are now hitting the country. British aid teams have been dispatched to help rescue survivors.


            • #51


              • #52
                Sonia Lyes :

                Samedi 12 Mars 2011 -- Bonne nouvelle pour les familles d'Algériens vivant au Japon. «Tous les ressortissants algériens établis au Japon sont sains et saufs», a indiqué ce samedi 12 mars une source au ministère des Affaires étrangères, au lendemain du violent séisme qui a frappé ce pays. «Les informations sont rassurantes et l'ambassade d'Algérie à Tokyo a pu entrer en contact avec tous les ressortissants algériens établis au Japon», a précisé cette source citée par l’agence officielle APS. Peu de temps auparavant, l’ambassadeur d’Algérie au Japon avait indiqué sur la radio chaîne III qu’il n’avait pas pu contacter tous les résidents (quelques centaines) en raison des problèmes téléphoniques mais aussi du changement d’adresse de certains. Il avait toutefois rassuré que l’essentiel des ressortissants n’habitaient pas dans la zone touchée par le séisme. Le bilan provisoire du séisme de 8,9 sur l'échelle ouverte de Richter et du tsunami qui a suivi s'élève à près de 1.400 morts selon les autorités japonaises.


                • #53


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                    • #55

                      March 12, 2011 -- An official says three people being evacuated from an area near a quake-damaged Japanese nuclear plant have been exposed to radiation. The Fukushima prefectural disaster official confirmed their exposure but said they showed no signs of illness. A blast Saturday at the nuclear plant blew off the walls and roof. Yoshinori Baba says the three were in a group of evacuees who had waited in a school yard to be picked up by a helicopter. Officials say the plant has released some radiation because of a cooling problem since Friday's massive quake. They say residents are being evacuated from a 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius as a precaution.


                      • #56

                        March 12, 2011 (Reuters) -- A quake-hit Japanese nuclear plant reeling from an explosion at one of its reactors has also lost its emergency cooling system at another reactor, Japan's nuclear power safety agency said on Sunday (JST). The emergency cooling system is no longer functioning at the No.3 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility, requiring the facility to urgently secure a means to supply water to the reactor, an official of the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told a news conference. On Saturday, an explosion blew off the roof and upper walls of the building housing the facility's No. 1 reactor, stirring alarm over a possible major radiation release, although the government later said the explosion had not affected the reactor's core vessel and that only a small amount of radiation had been released. The nuclear safety agency official said there was a possibility that at least nine individuals had been exposed to radiation, according to information gathered from municipal governments and other sources.


                        • #57

                          March 12, 2011 (Reuters) -- The number of individuals exposed to radiation from the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan could reach as high as 160, an official of Japan's nuclear safety agency said on Sunday (JST). Nine individuals had already shown possible exposure to radiation from the plant, based on information from tests by municipal authorities and other sources, and estimates from the authorities suggested the figure could rise as high as 70 to 160, the official from the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told a news conference. The No. 1 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Co's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan released radiation after a powerful earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan on Friday left it with a crippled cooling system and the operator was forced to release pressure that had built up in the reactor.


                          • #58

                            TOKYO, March 12, 2011 — The U.N. nuclear watchdog says Japan is evacuating 170,000 people from the area near a nuclear power plant damaged in the devastating earthquake and tsunami. The International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, says the people were ordered out of a 12-mile (20-kilometre) radius surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The plant exploded Saturday, destroying the building housing the reactor but not the reactor itself, and complicating relief and rescue efforts by authorities after Friday's twin disasters. The IAEA says another 30,000 people were moved away from the area around a second nuclear plant.


                            • #59


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