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Posts Tagged ‘Kyodo News’

Radiation inside Japan nuclear plant rises sharply

Posted by Admin on March 27, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110327/ap_on_bi_ge/as_japan_earthquake

By YURI KAGEYAMA and MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press Yuri Kageyama And Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press 58 mins ago

TOKYOEmergency workers struggling to pump contaminated water from Japan’s stricken nuclear complex fled one of the troubled reactors Sunday after reporting a huge spike in radioactivity, with levels 10 million times higher than normal in the reactor’s cooling system, officials said.

The numbers were so high that the worker measuring radiation levels in the complex’s Unit 2 withdrew before taking a second reading, officials said.

It was not immediately clear, however, how long workers were exposed to the highly radioactive water or how long the levels had been that high at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, 140 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo.

But it came as officials acknowledged there was contaminated water in all four of the complex’s most troubled reactors, and as airborne radiation in Unit 2 measured 1,000 millisieverts per hour — four times the limit deemed safe by the government, Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Takashi Kurita said.

Officials say they still don’t know where the radioactive water is coming from, though government spokesman Yukio Edano has said some is “almost certainly” seeping from a cracked reactor core in one of the units.

While the discovery of the high radiation levels — and the evacuation of workers from one reactor unit — again delayed efforts to bring the deeply troubled complex under control, Edano insisted the situation had partially stabilized.

“We have somewhat prevented the situation from turning worse,” he told reporters Sunday evening. “But the prospects are not improving in a straight line and we’ve expected twists and turns. The contaminated water is one of them and we’ll continue to repair the damage.”

The discovery over the last three days of radioactive water has been a major setback in the mission to get the plant’s crucial cooling systems operating more than two weeks after a massive earthquake and tsunami.

The magnitude-9 quake off Japan’s northeast coast on March 11 triggered a tsunami that barreled onshore and disabled the Fukushima plant, complicating an immense humanitarian disaster.

The death toll from the twin disasters stood at 10,668 Sunday, with more than 16,574 people missing, police said. Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless.

Workers have been scrambling to remove the radioactive water from the four units and find a safe place to store it, TEPCO officials said.

On Sunday night, Minoru Ogoda of Japan’s nuclear safety agency said each unit could have hundreds of tons of radioactive water.

The protracted nuclear crisis has spurred concerns about the safety of food and water in Japan, which is a prime source of seafood for some countries. Radiation has been found in food, seawater and even tap water supplies in Tokyo.

Just outside the coastal Fukushima nuclear plant, radioactivity in seawater tested about 1,250 times higher than normal last week — but that number had climbed to 1,850 times normal by the weekend.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a nuclear safety official, said the increase was a concern, but also said the area is not a source of seafood and that the contamination posed no immediate threat to human health.

Experts with the International Atomic Energy Agency said the ocean would quickly dilute the worst contamination.

Up to 600 people are working inside the plant in shifts. Nuclear safety officials say workers’ time inside the crippled units is closely monitored to minimize their exposure to radioactivity, but two workers were hospitalized Thursday when they suffered burns after stepping into contaminated water. They are to be released from the hospital Monday.

Edano has urged TEPCO to be more transparent about the potential dangers after the safety agency revealed the plant operator was aware of high radiation levels in the air in Unit 3 several days before the two workers suffered burns there.

A top TEPCO official acknowledged Sunday it could take a long time to completely clean up the complex.

“We cannot say at this time how many months or years it will take,” TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto said, insisting the main goal now is to cool the reactors.

A poll, meanwhile, showed that support for Japan’s prime minister has risen as the administration tackles the disasters.

The public opinion poll conducted over the weekend by Kyodo News agency found that approval of Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his Cabinet rose to 28.3 percent after sinking below 20 percent in February, before the earthquake and tsunami.

Last month’s low approval led to speculation that Kan’s days were numbered. While the latest figure is still low, it suggests he is making some gains with voters.

About 58 percent of respondents in the nationwide telephone survey of 1,011 people said they approved of the government’s handling of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but a similar number criticized its handling of the nuclear crisis.

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Japan tsunami: Nothing to do but run

Posted by Admin on March 16, 2011

Archive: Sendai, Japan (NASA, International Sp...

Image of Sendai by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110316/ap_on_re_as/as_japan_earthquake_devastation

By TODD PITMAN, Associated Press Todd Pitman, Associated Press 18 mins ago

SHIZUGAWA, Japan – Growing up in this small fishing town on Japan’s northeastern coast, 16-year-old Minami Sato never took the annual tsunami drills seriously.

She thought the town’s thick, two-story-high harbor walls would protect against any big wave. Besides, her home was perched on a hilltop more than a mile (about two kilometers) from the water’s edge. It was also just below a designated “tsunami refuge” — an elevated patch of grass that looked safely down across the town’s highest four-story buildings.

But the colossal wave that slammed into Shizugawa last week “was beyond imagination,” the high-school student said. “There was nothing we could do, but run.”

The devastating tsunami that followed Friday’s massive earthquake erased Shizugawa from the map, and raised questions about what, if anything, could have been done to prevent it. More than half the town’s 17,000 people are missing and scenes of ruin dot the towns and villages along Japan’s northeastern coast, devastation not seen here since the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.

On Wednesday, the official death toll from the tragedy was raised to 3,676 but it is expected climb above 10,000 as nearly 8,000 people are missing. Some 434,000 people were made homeless and are living in shelters.

With each passing day, more and more poignant stories of survivors and victims are emerging.

Immediately after the quake, Katsutaro Hamada, 79, fled to safety with his wife. But then he went back home to retrieve a photo album of his granddaughter, 14-year-old Saori, and grandson, 10-year-old Hikaru.

Just then the tsunami came and swept away his home. Rescuers found Hamada’s body, crushed by the first floor bathroom walls. He was holding the album to his chest, Kyodo news agency reported.

“He really loved the grandchildren. But it is stupid,” said his son, Hironobu Hamada. “He loved the grandchildren so dearly. He has no pictures of me!”

Shizugawa, 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Hamada’s home in Iwate province’s Ofunato city, had been preparing for just such a disaster since at least 1960, when the largest earthquake on record — a magnitude 9.5 — hit Chile and triggered a tsunami that swept the entire Pacific Ocean and hit Japan.

A Miyagi prefecture official said the harbor walls, which began to be constructed soon after the tsunami, were completed in 1963.

Every year on the anniversary of that destruction — May 22 — residents of Shizugawa practiced tsunami drills — running to designated refuges on higher ground scattered through town as sirens howled and making arrangements for emergency food and shelter.

The drills were voluntary, but most people took part, said 50-year-old housewife, Katsuko Takahashi, who was sitting in the darkness outside a school turned shelter in Shizugawa, shivering as snow fell.

“I can’t say we prepared enough, because half the population is still missing,” she said. “But you cannot prepare for a tsunami this big.”

When Sato first saw the colossal brown wave rushing toward Shizugawa on Friday afternoon, it looked small enough for the 20-feet-high (6-meter-high) walls along the harbor — hundreds of feet (meters) of thick concrete slabs — to stop it.

But as the tsunami slammed into the harbor edge, it was clear the walls, stretched over a half-mile (a kilometer), would be useless. Sato — watching from her hilltop home — saw the surging water easily engulf not only the walls, but crash over the top of four-story-high buildings in the distance.

Sato grabbed her 79-year-old grandmother and started running up a pathway behind her home to the tsunami refuge.

But there, she saw several dozen people who had gathered already on the move.

“Run!” screamed one. “The water is coming! It’s getting higher!” shouted another.

The wave fast approaching, Sato ran up the steps into a Shinto shrine, past a cemetery and kept going, finally coming to a halt out of breath beside a cell phone tower.

The surging sea swept over the refuge below them, picking up 16 cars that had been parked neatly in a row and cramming them chaotically together into a corner of the parking lot.

Below, the ocean had swallowed all of Shizugawa, rising above a four-story mini-mall and the town’s hospital, two of the few buildings still standing — but totally gutted — when the wave receded.

“I thought I was going to die,” Sato said Tuesday afternoon, as she gathered up two sweaters, two books and a pillow from her ruined house, whose missing front wall looked out over the town, where a line of army-green Japanese Self Defense Force jeeps rode through the destruction.

The harbor wall is now half missing. On one road that still exists in Shizugawa, evacuation routes can still be seen painted into the tarmac.

One shows a blue wave curled around a running human figure. A green arrow indicates a refuge is just a few hundred yards (meters) away — the same one now covered with debris beside Sato’s house.

Just around the corner, the road is gone, surrounded by an apocalyptic wasteland of knotted rubble that used to be Shizugawa.

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Scenes of devastation at heart of Japan disaster

Posted by Admin on March 12, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110312/ap_on_re_as/as_japan_earthquake_devastation

By JAY ALABASTER, Associated Press Jay Alabaster, Associated Press Sat Mar 12, 8:38 am ET

SENDAI, Japan – Miles from the ocean’s edge, weary, mud-spattered survivors wandered streets strewn with fallen trees, crumpled cars, even small airplanes. Relics of lives now destroyed were everywhere — half a piano, a textbook, a soiled red sleeping bag.

On Saturday, a day after a massive tsunami tore through Sendai, residents surveyed the devastation that has laid waste to whole sections of the northern port of 1 million people, 80 miles (128 kilometers) from the epicenter of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake that set off one of the greatest disasters in Japan‘s history.

Rescue workers plied boats through murky waters around flooded structures, nosing their way through a sea of detritus, while smoke from at least one large fire billowed in the distance. Power and phone reception remained cut as the city continued to be jolted by powerful aftershocks.

A still unknown number of people perished. Police said they found 200 to 300 bodies washed up on nearby beaches, but authorities were still assessing the extent of the devastation in the city and along the nearby coast.

Rail operators lost contact with four trains running on coastal lines Friday and still had not found them by Saturday afternoon, Kyodo News agency reported. East Japan Railway Co. said it did not know how many people were aboard.

Overall, the country’s official death toll stood at 574, although local media reports said at least 1,300 people may have been killed. Prime Minister Naoto Kan said 50,000 troops would join rescue and recovery efforts, and rescuers still had not reached some of the hardest-hit areas by late Saturday, some 30 hours after the quake.

Hundreds of people lined up outside the few still-operating supermarkets in Sendai, stocking up on drinks and instant noodles, knowing it would be a long time before life returns to anything like normal. Some recalled how they cheated death as the massive waves swept some 6 miles (10 kilometers) inland.

A convenience store 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the shore was open for business, though there was no power and the floors were covered with a thick layer of grime.

“The flood came in from behind the store and swept around both sides,” said shop owner Wakio Fushima. “Cars were flowing right by.”

Many Sendai residents spent the night outdoors, or wandering debris-strewn streets, unable to return to homes damaged or destroyed by the quake or tsunami. Those who did find a place to rest for the night awoke to scenes of utter devastation.

The city’s Wakabayashi district, which runs directly up to the sea, was a swampy wasteland with murky, waist-high water. Most houses were completely flattened, as if a giant bulldozer had swept through.

Satako Yusawa, 69, said she has felt many earthquakes but never anything like what hit Friday afternoon.

“I was having tea at a friend’s house when the quake hit. We were desperately trying to hold the furniture up, but the shaking was so fierce that we just panicked,” she said.

She said her son had just borrowed a large amount of money to build a house, and the family moved in on Feb. 11. Luckily, he was out of town when the quake and tsunami hit, but on Saturday they couldn’t find the house, or even where it used to stand.

Yusawa broke into tears as she looked out over the devastation.

“This is life,” she said.

At an electronics story in the city, workers gave away batteries, flashlights and cell phone chargers. Several dozen people waited patiently outside.

From a distance, the store appeared to have survived the devastation intact. But a closer look revealed several smashed windows and slightly buckled walls.

Inside was chaos. The ceiling of the second floor had collapsed, and large TVs, air conditioners and other products lay smashed and strewn about the aisles.

The contents of the entire building were soaked by the automatic sprinklers that were triggered by the quake.

“Things were shaking so much we couldn’t stand up,” said Hiroyuki Kamada, who was working in the store when the initial quake hit. “After three or four minutes it lessened a bit and we dashed outside.”

The tsunami directly hit the city’s dock area and then barreled down a long approach road, carrying giant metal shipping containers about a mile (2 kilometers) inland and smashing buildings along the way.

Hundreds of cars and trucks were strewn throughout the area — on top of buildings, wedged into stairwells, standing on their noses or leaning against each other as if in prayer.

Most ships in port managed to escape to sea before the tsunami hit, but a large Korean ship was swept onto the dock.

Most buildings out of range of the tsunami appeared to have survived the quake without much damage, though some older wooden structures were toppled. Paved roads had buckled in some places.

Cell phone saleswoman Naomi Ishizawa, 24, was working when the quake hit in the mid afternoon. She said it took until nightfall to reach her house just outside Sendai and check on her parents, who were both OK. Their home was still standing, but the walls of a bedroom and bathroom had collapsed and debris was strewn throughout.

And yet, she was lucky. The tsunami’s inland march stopped just short of her residence; other houses in her neighborhood were totally destroyed.

Like many people throughout Japan’s northeast, she had not heard from others in her family and was worried.

“My uncle and his family live in an area near the shore where there were a lot of deaths,” Ishizawa said. “We can’t reach them.”

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