Nu­clear emer­gency

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today -

MELT­DOWN: Res­i­dents carry their be­long­ings as they avoid de­bris at the port area of Ta­gajo; and, in­set, a satel­lite im­age of the dam­age around the Fukushima Dai-Ni nu­clear power plant af­ter a tsunami and mas­sive earth­quake hit off the coast on March 11 JA­PAN battl ed a f eared melt­down of two re­ac­tors at a quake-hit nu­clear plant yes­ter­day, as the full hor­ror of the disas­ter emerged on the rav­aged north­east coast where more than 10,000 were feared dead.

An ex­plo­sion at the age­ing Fukushima No 1 atomic plant blew apart the build­ing hous­ing one of its re­ac­tors on Satur­day, a day af­ter the big­gest quake ever recorded in Ja­pan un­leashed a mon­ster 10-me­tre tsunami.

The a t o mic e mer­gency widened yes­ter­day as the cool­ing sys­tems vi­tal for pre­vent­ing over­heat­ing failed at a sec­ond re­ac­tor and the gov­ern­ment warned there was a risk it too could be hit with a blast.

‘‘ There is the pos­si­bil­ity of an ex­plo­sion in the num­berthree re­ac­tor,’’ Yukio Edano, the top gov­ern­ment spokesman, said while voic­ing con­fi­dence it would with­stand the blast as the num­ber-one re­ac­tor had the day be­fore.

Edano, the chief cabi­net sec­re­tary, said ear­lier it was highly likely a melt­down had oc­curred in the first re­ac­tor, at the plant sit­u­ated on the coast 250km north­east of Tokyo.

‘‘ As for the num­ber-three re­ac­tor, we are acting on the as­sump­tion that it is pos­si­ble,’’ he said.

Edano said some ra­di­a­tion had es­caped, but the lev­els re­leased into the air had so far not reached lev­els high enough t o af f ect hu­man health.

Ja­pan’s nu­clear in­dus­try pro­vides around a third of the nation’s power needs, and the gov­ern­ment warned that the shut­down of sev­eral re­ac­tors may lead to a short­fall in sup­ply that will make power out­ages nec­es­sary.

The colos­sal 9-mag­ni­tude tremor sent waves of mud and de­bris rac­ing over towns and farm­ing land in Ja­pan’s north­east, de­stroy­ing all be­fore it and leav­ing the coast a swampy waste­land.

In the small port town of Mi­namisan­riku alone 10,000 peo­ple were un­ac­counted for – more than half the pop­u­la­tion of the town, which was prac­ti­cally erased.

The po­lice chief in Miyagi p r e f e c t u r e – w h e r e Mi­namisan­riku is sit­u­ated – said the death toll was cer­tain to ex­ceed 10,000 in his district.

But in a rare piece of good news, a man who was swept 15km out to sea along with his house by the tsunami was plucked to safety on Sun­day af­ter be­ing spot­ted cling­ing to a piece of the roof.

Hiromitsu Shinkawa, 60, was dis­cov­ered by a Ja­panese de­stroyer and taken by he­li­copter to hos­pi­tal, where he was in sur­pris­ingly good health af­ter his mirac­u­lous res­cue.

As the world’s third-largest econ­omy strug­gled to as­sess the full ex­tent of what Prime Min­is­ter Naoto Kan called an ‘‘ un­prece­dented na­tional disas­ter’’, groups of hun­dreds of bod­ies were be­ing found along the shat­tered coast­line. Edano said at least 1000 peo­ple were be­lieved to have lost their lives, and po­lice said more than 215,000 peo­ple were hud­dled in emer­gency shel­ters.

The mas­sive earth­quake, one of the largest in recorded his­tory, ap­pears to have shifted the main Ja­panese is­land by 2.4 me­tres, the US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey said.

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