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Quake-hit Japan faces fresh radiation threat 

Press Trust of India / Tokyo March 13, 2011, 10:48 IST 

Japan's second nuclear reactor in the quake-stricken north experienced serious troubles today after its emergency cooling system failed, triggering a fresh radiation threat, a day after a blast rocked the site following a massive quake and tsunami in which thousands of people are feared dead.

The Fukushima power plant's operator said pressure was rising inside reactor No. 3 after it lost its cooling system.
The development came a day tens of thousands of people were evacuated from the area after a blast and leakage from the No. 1 reactor at Fukushima, 240 km north of the capital Tokyo. The explosion had blown off the roof and walls around the reactor.

According to IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog agency, an estimated 170,000 people had been evacuated from the area around the plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Co, which runs the power station, notified Japan's nuclear safety agency that the radiation level at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant had exceeded the legal limit.

Hourly radiation at the site was measured at 882 micro sievert, in excess of the allowable level of 500, Kyodo news agency reported.

The nuclear safety agency also said the Tokyo Electric Company acknowledged that the No. 3 reactor of the Fukushima plant had lost its cooling functions, while at least 22 people are known to have been exposed to radiation near the plant since yesterday.

The No. 3 reactor had lost the ability to cool its core and was now in the process of releasing radioactive steam, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.

It was the sixth reactor overall at the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 plants to undergo cooling failure since the massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on Friday.

In the small town of Minamisanriku alone, about 10,000 people, over half the town's population, remained unaccounted for, Kyodo said. In Fukushima Prefecture, over 600 bodies had been found in both Fukushima and Miyazaki prefectures.

In Miyagi, about 4,400 people had been sheltered in schools, hospitals and inns in the tsunami-swamped town of Onagawa and neighboring Ishinomaki city, local officials said.

In Iwate Prefecture, north of Miyagi, many bodies were found this morning under the rubble in Rikuzentakata city. About 5,000 houses in the city had been submerged by the quake-triggered tsunami.

There were also tens of thousands of people that local governments had been unable to contact, police and local officials were quoted as saying.

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Japan blast sparks nuclear talk Down Under
The Australian federal government and the opposition have both refused to buy into a debate on nuclear energy following a massive explosion at a Japanese facility following the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

But the Australian Greens say it is another pointed reminder for Australia not to go down the nuclear route.

There was an explosion at the Fukushima power plant yesterday because of damage sustained in the earthquake, putting one reactor at risk. Authorities are now rushing to contain a problem at a second reactor amid fears both could suffer meltdowns.

A 20km exclusion zone has been set up, and tests have shown that at least three people have been exposed to radiation.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the disaster was a huge, added burden for Japan, but she would not be drawn on its potential effect on Australia's nuclear prospects.

"We need to focus just now on what the people of Japan need us to do," she told reporters in Canberra today.

"All of those things will, no doubt, be the subject of scrutiny and debate, but I don't think today is the day."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott also chose to defer a debate, insisting that the coalition had no plan to promote nuclear power.

Australia is one of several nations now seeking urgent briefings from the Japanese government on the situation, even though there is no immediate threat to the region

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Japan's killer Tsunamis video

TOKYO: A magnitude-8.9 earthquake hit northeastern Japan Friday, generating a tsunami as high as 10 metres that hit the coast of Miyagi prefecture, officials said. 

At least six people were killed, 20 injured and many were missing, including a number of children who were sucked into the sea, the public broadcaster NHK reported. 

Japan's prime minister said Friday's 8.9-magnitude quake caused "major damage" in northeastern Japan, but that nuclear power facilities in the area were not damaged and there was no radiation leakage.

Friday's offshore quake triggered a tsunami that hit Japan's eastern coast, sweeping away buildings and cars. TV footage also showed fires burning in the northern city of Sendai. Officials were still trying to assess the extent of destruction.

"The earthquake has caused major damage in broad areas in northern Japan," Prime Minister Naoto Kan said during an emergency news conference. "Some of the nuclear power plants in the region have automatically shut down, but there as no leakage of radioactive materials to the environment."

The government's top spokesman, Yukio Edano, said that the country was sending troops to the quake-hit area to join relief efforts.

The six deaths were reported at a welfare facility that collapsed in Minami Soma in Fukushima prefecture, and the Kyodo News agency said eight people were missing in a landslide in Fukushima prefecture. 

Waves swamped buildings and swept away cars, boats, crops and even buildings. People gathered on the roofs of inundated buildings and houses. Women waved white handkerchiefs from windows, seeking help. 

NHK showed footage of submerged vehicles in Kamaishi, Iwate prefecture, as a 4.2-metre tsunami hit the city's coast and of many houses in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture, being washed away by quake-generated waves. 

High tsunami waves also hit Hiroo on Hokkaido, Japan's northern island. 

The agency warned more waves up to 10 metres high would hit the coast of eastern Japan. 

A tsunami advisory was issued in wide swathes of the eastern coast and around the Pacific. 

The quake was earlier reported at magnitude 7.9 by Japan's Meteorological Agency . The US Geological Survey upgraded it to 8.9 on the Richter scale. 

The quake, which hit at 2.45 p.m. (0545 GMT) at a depth of 24.4 km, shook buildings in Tokyo violently and some caught fire. 

The US Geological Survey said the initial quake was followed by at least eight large aftershocks, the strongest measuring magnitude 7.1 and striking 40 minutes after the first tremor. 

Media reported extensive damage to buildings in and around Tokyo and the collapse of roofs on Tokyo buildings. 

NHK showed footage of fire at petrochemical complexes in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo. 

Narita International Airport and airports in Senda, Iwate Hanamaki, Aomori and Yamagata were closed, the Jiji Press agency said. NHK showed footage of the Sendai Airport submerged. 

Nuclear power stations on the Pacific coast in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures shut down operations automatically after the quake hit. 

More than 4.5 million households experienced power outages in the metropolitan area, Tokyo Electric Power Co said. Almost all the households in eastern Japan experienced power failures, NHK said. 

Japanese train service, including bullet trains, were suspended in northeastern and central Japan. 

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii issued tsunami warnings for Japan, Russia, Marcus Island and the Northern Marianas and tsunami watches for Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Hawaii, Guam and other Pacific islands. 

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