Race against time to pre­vent ra­di­a­tion leak

Townsville Bulletin - - World Snapshot -

DEV­AS­TATED: Aus­tralian res­cuers help search for bod­ies as earth­quake-bat­tered Ja­pan faces a new threat from a deep­en­ing nu­clear cri­sis JA­PAN bat­tled a nu­clear and hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis y e s t e r d a y a s e n g i n e e r s worked to re­store power to a stricken atomic plant while the toll of dead and miss­ing from the quake and tsunami reached 16,900.

Half a mil­lion peo­ple made home­less when the mon­ster waves razed Ja­pan’s north­east coast were suf­fer­ing in ap­palling con­di­tions, strug­gling to stay warm in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures and with scant food and fuel.

Thick snow cov­ered the wreck­age lit­ter­ing obliter- ated towns and vil­lages, all but ex­tin­guish­ing hopes of find­ing any­one alive in the d e b r i s a n d d e e p e n i n g dan­ger for sur­vivors.

‘ ‘ We’re al r eady s ee­ing fam­i­lies hud­dling around gas fires for warmth. In these sorts of tem­per­a­tures, young chil­dren are vul­ner­a­ble to chest in­fec­tions and flu,’’ Save the Chil­dren’s Steve McDon­ald said, es­ti­mat­ing the disas­ter had left 100,000 chil­dren home­less.

But global con­cerns re­mained f o c us e d o n t he crip­pled Fukushima No 1 plant, 250km from Tokyo, and the fear that the mas­sive earth­quake and tsunami could be f ol­lowed by a dan­ger­ous ra­di­a­tion leak.

Those fears have trig­gered an ex­o­dus of for­eign na­tiona l s , p a r t i c u l a r l y a f t e r Bri­tain, France, Ger­many, Aus­tralia and New Zealand ad­vised their cit­i­zens to leave Tokyo as well as the north­east re­gion.

Rus­sia and Ger­many were among coun­tries that have moved their em­bassies out of the Ja­panese cap­i­tal.

The mil­i­tary and fire de- part­ments re­sumed wa­ter cool­ing op­er­a­tions us­ing a fleet of fire trucks in a race a g a i n s t t i m e t o b r i n g over­heat­ing at the plant’s re­ac­tors and fuel stor­age tanks, known as con­tain­ment pools, un­der con­trol.

If the fuel is ex­posed to air, it could de­grade fur­ther and emit dan­ger­ous lev­els of ra­dioac­tiv­ity.

Authorit i e s have s a i d ra­di­a­tion lev­els from the plant pose no im­me­di­ate health t hreat out­side a 20km ex­clu­sion zone, de­spite slightly el­e­vated lev­els de­tected in Tokyo this week.

The cap­i­tal’s usu­ally teem­ing streets were quiet yes­ter­day, al­though some res­i­dents headed to work as usual. The city’s neon glare was dimmed overnight, in line with a power-sav­ing drive forced by shut­downs at other atomic plants.

‘‘ This town has be­come so lone­some at night, as many stores keep the lights off and close early,’’ said Shin Fu­jii, who runs a Span­ish restau­rant where cus­tom has slowed to a few din­ers a day.

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