Aussies warned to get away from plant
AUSTRALIANS living within 80km of the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant have been urged to evacuate amid fears that a complete meltdown is now inevitable.
The Australian Radiation Protection And Nuclear Safety Agency said expats should observe an exclusion zone much bigger than the 20km one imposed by Japanese authorities ‘‘ as a precautionary measure’’.
The US and France have gone one further, evacuating their nationals from the capital Tokyo.
The Department of Foreign Affairs also urged Australians to consider leaving Tokyo and other earthquake-affected areas for their own safety.
But it was refusing to charter a flight to bring Australians home.
DFAT claimed the advice had nothing to do with the threat of nuclear contamination, adding: ‘‘ We are providing this advice because of the continuing disruption to major infrastructure, its impact on the welfare of people on the ground and continuing after - shocks.’’
Japanese emergency workers continued their battle to quell the growing atomic disaster, with four military helicopters dumping huge buckets of sea water on the four damaged reactors to try to cool down the exposed nuclear fuel rods. High pressure police water cannons were also being sent in to join the battle.
If they fail, a meltdown at one reactor could spew so much radiation into the atmosphere that attempts to avoid the same fate at the other three reactors would have to be abandoned.
The crisis has been building since all power to the plant failed following last Friday’s magnitude 9 earthquake and the massive tsunami that followed.
As the death toll was expected to top 25,000 last night, the US was planning to charter aircraft to take its citizens out of Japan, while France assigned two planes for citizens who wanted to leave.
Britain, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands also advised their nationals to leave Tokyo or refrain from travelling to the northeast.
Australian companies including the Commonwealth Bank, BHP Billiton and Billabong are scaling back operations in Tokyo and have cancelled visits by Australian staff.
PRECAUTION: A Japanese Chinook helicopter carries seven tonnes of sea water at a time to dump on the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant which is close to imminent meltdown