Friday, March 18, 2011

Nuclear worries compound depression of Japan survivors

The nuclear disaster in Japan has struck fear and disbelief into quake and tsunami survivors who can barely take in the idea that a third life-threatening disaster strength come their way.

Frantic efforts to prevent a unsafe radiation leak at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant on the eastern coast have conquered global concerns in the wake of the massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami last week.

On Friday, Japan's nuclear agency hiked the accident level to five from four on the international 0-7 scale of gravity for atomic accidents; an entrance the crisis had at least equalled the US Three Mile Island accident in 1979.

Some 200 kilometres (125 miles) to the north, those who lived through the quake and consequent tsunami that left nearly 7,000 confirmed dead have struggled to make sense of the news coming out of the Fukushima plant.

Traumatised, homeless and facing the scary task of rebuilding their crushed lives, few have been reassured by the official line that the situation is under control and that any leak would be so small as to carry a insignificant health risk.

"That radiation thing is extremely scary," said Hiromitsu Miyakawa, a retailer in Kesennuma, one of the towns that bore the full force of the tsunami along the northeast coast.

"It is beyond a tsunami. A tsunami you can see. But this you cannot see," Miyakawa said.

Helicopters and fire trucks have been used to deposit tonnes of water in a desperate effort to bring overheating at the plant's reactors and fuel storage tanks, known as repression pools, under control.

Japan has said emission levels from the plant, located 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo, pose no health threat outside a 20-kilometre barring zone.

In the small northeastern port of Miyako, Teeichi Sagama, the principal of a school converted into a tsunami evacuation centre, said he was upset with what he saw as the puzzling and contradictory statements coming from the authorities.

"I just want the government to tell the truth," he said. Taizo Tanisawa, who lost his home but volunteered to issue hot water and food to other survivors in Miyako, agreed that the government had been unclear in clearing up the dangers of the situation in Fukushina.

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