Aussies warned to get away from plant

Townsville Bulletin - - World Snapshot -

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.

Photo: YOMIURI SHIMBUN, AFP

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

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