Tokyo/London, March 16 (IANS) A fresh fire Wednesday engulfed a reactor in Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant, with fears that the emergency workers could face long term health issues. The Japanese emperor said he was “deeply worried” as two strong tremors hit the country Wednesday.
The latest quakes caused panic among the people who are still traumatised by Friday’s 9.0 magnitude earthquake that spawned a giant tsunami.
The fresh fire broke out at reactor no. 4 in Fukushima atomic power plant where three of the total six reactors were hit by explosions following last week’s earthquake. The emergency workers at the plant had to temporarily withdraw from the plant.
People living near Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant were told to leave, but emergency workers were struggling to cool the plant and a media report Wednesday said they could be left with lifelong health problems or even die.
The Independent newspaper of Britain said in a report that the workers dealing with the escalating crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant that was extensively damaged in Friday’s massive earthquake have a huge responsibility that could leave them with lifelong health problems, or even leave them dead.
Most emergency workers were evacuated Tuesday and about 50 remained inside the plant. They too left the plant Wednesday. A government spokesman said the inner shell in a reactor might be damaged and radiation was so high there that employees could no longer enter the complex.
A day before Prime Minister Naoto Kan had said that radiation levels around the damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima had “risen considerably” and it could endanger human health.
As n-crisis deepened, Japanese Emperor Akihito made a rare TV appearance in which he said he was “deeply worried” about the crisis facing his country.
The 77-year-old Japanese emperor went live on TV to make his first public comments on the disaster, under which Japan has been reeling since March 11. He said he was “deeply worried” and added he was praying for the people, BBC reported.
BBC said TV stations interrupted programming to show the emperor describing the natural disaster as “unprecedented in scale”.
The emperor said: “I hope from the bottom of my heart that the people will, hand in hand, treat each other with compassion and overcome these difficult times.”
According to the National Police Agency, Friday’s quake in northeastern Japan and the tsunami had left 4,164 people dead and 7,843 missing. Around 530,000 are living in more than 2,600 shelters in quake-hit areas.
As the country tried to come to terms with the devastation left by the March 11 earthquake, a strong temblor of magnitude-6 jolted Japan’s Kanto region Wednesday, Xinhua reported.
According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the quake, which occurred at 12.52 p.m., originated from a depth of 10 km in the coast of Chiba near Tokyo.
The Wednesday’s quake followed a temblor of similar intensity that hit the eastern Shizuoka prefecture Tuesday night.
To ensure there were no financial turmoil, the Bank of Japan Wednesday pumped another 3.5 trillion yen ($43.3 billion) into the financial system, adding to the trillions spent Monday and Tuesday to soothe shaken markets.
A WikiLeaks expose said that Japan was warned two years ago that its safety rules were not up to date and a strong earthquake would pose a serious problem to its nuclear power stations.
A US embassy cable cited by The Daily Telegraph said: “He (an IAEA official) explained that safety guides for seismic safety have only been revised three times in the last 35 years and that the IAEA is now re-examining them.
“Also, the presenter noted recent earthquakes in some cases have exceeded the design basis for some nuclear plants, and that this is a serious problem that is now driving seismic safety work.”
The losses from the disaster in Japan is likely to exceed $100 billion, a media report said.
New York Times reported that besides an expected $35 billion in insurance claims from Friday’s 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the financial losses will fall most heavily on the Japanese government after it puts together the damage from the tsunami and the nuclear disaster.
Huge claims are expected against insurers for the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.
The thinly veiled calm on the streets cannot disguise the bubbling panic across the country. There are fewer cars on the roads, and hour-long lines at petrol pumps and major food stores.
Many who are unable to travel because of fuel shortages are trying to stockpile supplies in case the radiation threat means they have to stay indoors.
Japan was struggling to move on with relief efforts as survivors are facing lack of food, water and medicines, amid escalating fear of radiation due to a damaged nuclear plant, and two fresh quakes.
Many Japanese have been suffering from lack of food, water and medicine as Japan and the international community are continuing their relief efforts in the disaster zone, Xinhua reported