Panic as crisis grows
Nuclear explosions unleash radiation
EXPLOSIONS and a fire at Japan’s quake-hit nuclear plant unleashed dangerous radiation last night, sparking a collapse on the stock market and panic-buying in supermarkets.
Tokyo stocks yesterday plummeted another 14 per cent.
In towns and cities, fearful citizens stripped shelves of food and water, prompting the government to warn panic-buying could hurt its ability to provide aid.
Radiation levels around the Fukushima No. 1 plant on the eastern coast had ‘‘ risen considerably’’, to the point where it endangered human health. In Tokyo, some 250km to the southwest, authorities also said higher than normal radiation levels had been detected but not at harmful levels.
The fire, which was later extinguished with the help of US troops, broke out in the plant’s number-four reactor, meaning four out of six reactors were in trouble a nd t e mperatures were reportedly rising in the other two.
Radiation levels later dropped at both the plant and in Tokyo.
On t op of t he at omic emergency, Japan is strug- gling to cope with the enormity of the damage.
The official death toll rose to 2414 yesterday, but officials have said at least 10,000 were likely to have perished.
In the only country in the world to have experienced a nuclear attack, Japanese citizens are gripped by fear of nuclear fallout.
More than 200,000 people have been evacuated from the exclusion zone around the crippled plant.
The crisis at the ageing Fukushima nuclear plant has worsened daily since Friday.
A government spokesman said radioactive particulates had leaked.
The UN’s nuclear watchdog , the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Tokyo had asked for expert assistance.
But the IAEA’s Japanese chief Yukiya Amano moved to calm global fears that the situation could escalate to rival the world’s worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986. ‘‘ The possibility that the development of this accident into one like Chernobyl is very unlikely,’’ he said.
The UN weather agency said yesterday winds were currently blowing radioac- tive material towards the ocean, and that there were ‘‘ no implications’’ for Japan or countries nearby.
The devastation in tsunami-hit areas such as Sendai city in the northeast, however, is absolute.
Aid workers and search teams from across the world have joined 100,000 Japanese soldiers in a relief push in the shattered areas.
Millions have been left without water, electricity, fuel or enough food and hundreds of thousands more are homeless and facing harsh conditions with sub-zero temperatures, and snow and rain forecast.
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EMPTY SHELLS: Cars burnt out by fires triggered by the tsunami in Japan lined up near Sendai in Miyagi prefecture