Radiation leak and explosion in nuclear power plant north of Tokyo
There has been an explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant 160 miles (250 kms) north of Tokyo. Four workers at the plant who were trying to cool two damaged reactors have been injured. There are now reports of a radiation leak, and it is feared that some fuel rods may have melted.
The explosion blew the roof off the top of the building and the situation appears to be getting more serious with every hour. The worst-case scenario, if it occurs, could result in a nuclear meltdown like the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. But Japan is a much smaller country with a far denser population close by.
When the 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit yesterday afternoon, all the nuclear reactors in the affected area immediately powered down. But they were not shut down properly and the cooling systems failed on at least two reactors atÂ Fukushima are feared damaged. One of them has vented a small amount of radioactive steam into the outside air. This may have been a deliberate choice to lower a dangerous amount of high-pressure gases, or it could have been an accident.
At least 2000 residents within a 10 kilometer radius of the nuclear power plant have been told to evacuate their homes.
This evening Sydney time, Japanese authorities have upped the death toll to 900 dead and 700 missing.Â And there are now at least 215,000 people who are homeless and in need of shelter.
There have been at least 30 major aftershocks since the 8.9 earthquake erupted 130 kilometers out to sea off the northwest coast of Japan. One of the aftershocks was a significant earthquake in its own right, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale. The main earthquake was so massive, scientists say the land mass of Japan was shifted by 8 feet or 2.5 meters.
More than a million people in Japan are now without electricity, and several million city workers in the greater Tokyo area were unable to go home last night because the trains were not working. Public transport was at a standstill and most of the city’s taxis had already been taken.
Today we heard that radio contact has been lost with four trains in coastal areas of Japan.
The millions of displaced people bought up whatever food they could find in the city and spent the night there. Some sheltering in their workplaces, and others wherever they could find. Â Supplies of food and water believed to be scarce as shops and supermarkets are empty. And because of the locked roads and no public transport, supplies can not get into the city.
There are unconfirmed reports that emergency helicopters flying near Sendai have seen 300 bodies strewn all along one beach.
All of the tsunami alerts issued to 20 countries this time last night have been cancelled. Hawaii has suffered millions of dollars of damage and has declared a state of emergency, andÂ California has declared a state of emergency in four coastal counties, but other locations appear to have escaped with only minor damage.
When the tsunami rolled in to the California shoreline, three young men who were standing in the water taking photographs and were swept out to sea by the wave. Two managed to swim to shore and raise the alarm but the third man, aged 25, is reported killed.
The United States has ordered eight US warships to head to Japan as fast as possible bringing manpower and heavy lifting equipment. The fleet, despatched by US President, Barack Obama, includes the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. Search and rescue teams have already been sent from Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.
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