Radiation 1,000 times normal at Japan nuke plant - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Radiation 1,000 times normal at Japan nuke plant

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TOKYO (NBC) — Radiation reached around 1,000 times the normal level Saturday in the control room of the No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant after the cooling system failed, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.

The agency said early Saturday that some radiation — it was not clear how much — has also seeped outside the plant, prompting widening of an evacuation area to a six-mile radius from a two-mile radius around the plant. Earlier, some 3,000 people had been urged to leave their homes.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Saturday that the temperatures of its No.1 and No.2 reactors at its Fukushima Daini nuclear power station were rising, and it had lost control over pressure in the reactors.

Fukushima Daini station is the second nuclear power plant the company has in Fukushima prefecture in northeastern Japan, where the troubled Fukushima Daiichi plant is located.

The radiation surge followed Japan's massive earthquake, which caused a power outage that disabled a nuclear reactor's cooling system, triggering the government's first-ever state of emergency at a nuclear plant.

Earlier, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, "Residents are safe after those within a 3-kilometer (1.8-mile) radius were evacuated and those within a 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) radius are staying indoors, so we want people to be calm."

TOKYO (NBC) -- A magnitude 8.9 earthquake — the biggest in modern Japanese history — slammed the island nation's eastern coast Friday afternoon, unleashing a 23-foot tsunami that swept boats, cars, buildings and tons of debris miles inland and prompting a "nuclear emergency."  The death toll was expected to top 1,000, most from drowning.

A second quake struck central Japan along the northwest coast hours later, causing buildings to sway. There were no immediate reports of deaths or damage from the quake, rated a 6.2 by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The tsunami reached Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast, where evacuations were ordered but little damage was reported.

According to Japanese police, 200 to 300 bodies were found in Sendai, the coastal city closest to the epicenter. Dozens of others were confirmed killed elsewhere, with hundreds missing. Hundreds more were injured.

"I was unable stay on my feet because of the violent shaking," a woman with a baby on her back told television in northern Japan. "The aftershocks gave us no reprieve, then the tsunami came when we tried to run for cover."

TV footage taken from a military plane showed fires engulfing a large waterfront area in northeastern Japan. Houses and other buildings were ablaze across large swathes of land in Kesennuma city in Miyagi prefecture, near Sendai. The city, with a population of 74,000, has residential, light industry and fishing areas.

According to reports, police told the Kyodo news agency that a passenger train with an unknown number of people aboard was missing in one coastal area.

The government ordered 3,000 residents near a nuclear power plant in Onahama to evacuate because the plant's cooling system failed and pressure inside the reactor is rising. The reactor's core remained hot even after a shutdown, and officials said they would release some slightly radioactive vapor to ease the pressure. The plant is 170 miles northeast of Tokyo.

The Defense Ministry dispatched dozens of troops trained to deal with chemical disaster to the plant in case of a radiation leak.

Overall, dozens of cities and villages along a 1,300-mile stretch of coastline were shaken by violent tremors that reached as far away as Tokyo, hundreds of miles from the epicenter.

"The earthquake has caused major damage in broad areas in northern Japan," Prime Minister Naoto Kan said at a news conference.

Even for a country used to earthquakes, this one was of horrific proportions because of the tsunami that crashed ashore, swallowing everything in its path as it surged several miles inland before retreating. The apocalyptic images of surging water broadcast by Japanese TV networks resembled scenes from a Hollywood disaster movie.

Large fishing boats and other sea vessels rode high waves into the cities, slamming against overpasses or scraping under them and snapping power lines along the way. Upturned and partially submerged vehicles were seen bobbing in the water. Ships anchored in ports crashed against each other.

The highways to the worst-hit coastal areas were severely damaged and communications, including telephone lines, were snapped. Train services in northeastern Japan and in Tokyo, which normally serve 10 million people a day, were also suspended, leaving untold numbers stranded in stations or roaming the streets. Tokyo's Narita airport was closed indefinitely.

Tomoko Koga, a 34-year-old translator and interpreter, told msnbc.com she couldn't see any damage from her house in Chiba, outside of Tokyo, but was watching reports of devastation on the news. "I don't even know what to say. I feel sorry that I'm safe and OK because there are so many people affected by this disaster."

Koga was waiting to hear back from her father, who was stranded in his office in Tokyo. "He texted us right after the earthquake that there wouldn't be any way for him to come back home. But after that, we didn't hear from him. It's really nerve-wracking."

Austrian Lukas Schlatter said he saw houses and cars moving when the quake struck Japan, and it was even hard for him to stand, "like I was a little bit drunk."

Schlatter, a 22-year-old intern at the Austrian embassy in Tokyo, said there was a lot of shaking and books fell off shelves in their office. "My Japanese co-workers were also scared because they said they had not experienced that strong of an earthquake in a long time," he told msnbc.com in a Skype interview.

More than 4 million buildings at one point lost power in Tokyo and its suburbs, the NHK news agency said.

Around Sendai, waves of muddy waters flowed over farmland, carrying buildings, some on fire, inland as cars attempted to drive away. Sendai airport was inundated with cars, trucks, buses and thick mud deposited over its runways.

More than 300 houses were washed away in the city of Ofunato alone. Television footage showed mangled debris, uprooted trees, upturned cars and shattered timber littering streets.

The tsunami roared over embankments, washing anything in its path inland before reversing directions and carrying the cars, homes and other debris out to sea. Flames shot from some of the houses, probably because of burst gas pipes.

A large fire erupted at an oil refinery in Ichihara city and burned out of control with 100-foot-high flames whipping into the sky.

Jefferies International Limited, a global investment banking group, said it estimated overall losses to be about $10 billion.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the first quake hit at 2:46 p.m. local time and was a magnitude 8.9, the biggest earthquake to hit Japan since officials began keeping records in the late 1800s. USGS files show that an 8.9 quake would make it the fifth strongest worldwide since 1900 and the seventh strongest on record.

The quake struck at a depth of six miles, about 80 miles off the eastern coast, the agency said. The area is 240 miles northeast of Tokyo.

A tsunami warning was extended to a number of Pacific, Southeast Asian and Latin American nations, including Japan, Russia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Chile. In the Philippines, authorities ordered an evacuation of coastal communities, but no unusual waves were reported.

In downtown Tokyo, large buildings shook violently and workers poured into the street for safety. TV footage showed a large building on fire and bellowing smoke in the Odaiba district of Tokyo. The tremor bent the upper tip of the iconic Tokyo Tower, a 1,093-foot steel structure inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The quake was nearly 8,000 times stronger than one that struck New Zealand late last month, devastating the city of Christchurch.

Japan's worst previous quake was in 1923 in Kanto, an 8.3-magnitude temblor that killed 143,000 people, according to USGS. A 7.2-magnitude quake in Kobe city in 1995 killed 6,400 people.

Japan lies on the "Ring of Fire" — an arc of earthquake and volcanic zones stretching around the Pacific where about 90 percent of the world's quakes occur, including the one that triggered the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami that killed an estimated 230,000 people in 12 nations. A magnitude-8.8 temblor that shook central Chile last February also generated a tsunami and killed 524 people.



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