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Fukushima out of control

March 16, 2011

After further fires at two reactors and an increase in emissions of radiation, the flames blazed on for hours. Meanwhile, rescue work is continuing in the hardest hit areas on Japan’s north-east coast.

There have been new explosions in Fukushima on Wednesday, 16 March
New explosions rocked Fukushima on Wednesday, 16 MarchImage: DigitalGlobe

Soldiers and rescue workers continue to search through the rubble for survivors in towns that Friday’s (11 March) tsunami left completely destroyed. Five days after the disaster hit, hopes of finding survivors are dwindling.

The Japanese TV station NHK reported that the number of dead and missing has now risen to over 11,000. Survivors have to salvage what they can and build completely new lives. Mioko Nishimura from Kessenuma was away when the tsunami struck. Now she is searching for her friends, family and colleagues in her home town, which was completely destroyed. "I wonder where they can be. Maybe they have already left, also in search of surviving relatives. I have already tried the evacuation area, but they are nowhere to be seen. I just can’t believe it.”

Police officers wearing gas masks patrol the area of the Fukushima power plant
Police officers wearing gas masks patrol the area of the Fukushima power plantImage: AP

Fire department positive

Despite the catastrophic destruction, local fire department workers are confident that the towns can be rebuilt. One fireman said, "I am sure that we will get everything back to normal – even if it takes a few years. After the big Hanshin earthquake, it took about 2-3 years to get everything back to normal."

Tens of thousands of people located in the disaster areas have had to survive on less than the basics. Power is out, there is no gas. And one eyewitness says there even isn’t any food or water. It appears that even in the evacuation shelters supplies are short.

High radioactive emissions

Due to high radioactive emissions from the Fukushima plant, efforts to cool the fuel rods have been stopped, as Yukio Edano, Japanese government’s speaker, announced. He said most of the workers have been removed from the area and added, "radiation levels at the main entrance of the facility are changing by the minute. We assume there is no immediate danger. Near the core steam has been created by the water used to cool off the rods. And the levels of radioactivity have increased there. We believe it might be radioactive steam."

Residents living in shelters are dealing with food and water shortages
Residents living in shelters are dealing with food and water shortagesImage: dapd

At one point, radiation levels were measured at 1000 millisieverts, but those levels quickly went back to normal. About an hour later the evacuation order was lifted, according to Japanese’s public broadcasting. The 50 workers from the plant have since been allowed to return to work.

A further magnitude-6-earthquake was recorded on Wednesday, which was felt in the capital city. It did not cause another tsunami.

Author: Bernd Musch-Borowska (sb)
Editor: Grahame Lucas