Panicky Tokyo battles nuclear radiation
SENDAI (JAPAN) THE estimated death toll from Japan’s disasters climbed past 10,000 on Sunday as authorities raced to combat the threat of multiple nuclear reactor meltdowns and hundreds of thousands of people struggled to find food and water.
The prime minister said it was the nation’s worst crisis since World War II.
Nuclear plant operators worked frantically to try to keep temperatures down in several reactors crippled by the earthquake and tsunami, wrecking at least two by dumping sea water into them in lastditch efforts to avoid meltdowns.
Officials warned of a second explosion but said it would not pose a health threat.
Near-freezing temperatures compounded the misery of survivors along the northeastern coast battered by the tsunami that smashed inland.
Rescuers pulled bodies from mud-covered jumbles of wrecked houses, shattered tree trunks, twisted cars and tangled power lines while survivors examined the ruined remains.
While the government doubled the number of soldiers deployed in the aid effort to 100,000 and sent 120,000 blankets, 120,000 bottles of water and 110,000 litres of gasoline plus food to the affected areas, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said electricity would take days to restore.
In the meantime, he said, electricity would be rationed with rolling blackouts to several cities, including Tokyo.
At a large refinery on the outskirts of Sendai, 100-foot-high flames rose in the air, spitting out dark plumes of smoke.
The facility has been burning since Friday.
The fire’s roar could be heard from afar.
Smoke burned the eyes and throat, and a gaseous stench hung in the air.