Fears of a possible nuclear disaster loomed large over Japan
Monday in the aftermath of last week's magnitude-9 earthquake and
ensuing tsunami as the toll is feared to run into tens of
thousands. Freezing weather and snow compounded the problem of the
homeless and affected rescue operations.
A blast Monday at yet
another reactor of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in
northeastern Japan further escalated concerns about possible
radioactive leaks, although the country's government has vowed
that there is no major health risk, RIA Novosti reported.
The explosion hit reactor No. 3 of the Fukushima Nuclear Power
Plant Monday morning, injuring 11 people and seven were missing,
Although pictures from the site showed massive destruction of the
reactor building, Japanese officials said the reactor itself
resisted the blast, the report added.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., which runs the nuclear plant, reported
Monday that the cooling system at reactor No. 2 had failed. A lack
of cooling liquid in the reactor raised fears of a possible blast
earlier in the day. However, a few hours later, injection of water
into the reactor restarted, the plant's operator said.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed dead and missing has risen to
almost 6,000, police said. Prime Minister Naoto Kan has said that
15,000 people have been rescued so far.
In Onagawa town in Miyagi prefecture - one of the areas
hardest-hit in Friday's quake and tsunami - more than 1,000 bodies
have been recovered, local police chief Naoto Takeuchi said.
The death toll in Miyagi could exceed 10,000, the official said as
1,000 bodies were found in Minami Sanriku in the prefecture.
Tens of thousands are unaccounted for. The whereabouts of some
2,500 tourists in the area are unknown, the Japan Tourism Agency
In Iwate prefecture, authorities have been unable to contact
around 8,000 residents of Otsuchi town on the coast, the Kyodo
news agency said.
The magnitude-9 earthquake - the strongest since record-keeping
began - unleashed a massive wave that devastated large swathes of
coastal land. According to the Interior Ministry, a total of
72,945 buildings were destroyed or have become permanently
Aftershocks continue to rattle the country, with a 6.2-magnitude
tremor recorded at 10:02 (0102 GMT) Monday.
International aid, including a team of disaster response
specialists dispatched by the United Nations, have begun to
arrive. Rescue workers are combing the flattened fishing villages
and cities in near-freezing temperatures to locate trapped or
injured people and recover bodies.
The country's military, called the Self-Defense Forces, said they
would call up their reserves to help in the relief effort.
Thousands of people are still stranded, many of them waiting for a
rescue on the roofs of schools, supermarkets and government office
About 550,000 people had been evacuated by late Monday to more
than 2,500 shelters, as meteorologists predicted more cold weather
and snow by Wednesday, DPA said.
Water, food and fuel were in short supply, prompting the
government to organize airlifts by military helicopters.
Electricity also continued to be affected, with parts of the
greater Tokyo area plunged into darkness late Monday, as the Tokyo
Electric Power Company (TEPCO) imposed blackouts to compensate for
a shortfall of 10,000 megawatts in generation.
Electricity rationing was expected to last until at least the end
of April, TEPCO said.