Dailymail.co.uk 25th March 2011
Fifty workers are treated for radiation contamination
Workers, who stepped into radiation-contaminated water at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, are shielded with tarpaulins before receiving decontamination treatment at a nearby hospital today
- Exposed to 10,000 times the safe maximum
- 'The current situation is still very unpredictable,' Prime Minster says
- Japanese government encourage voluntary evacuation - and will help
- Two Japanese travellers 'seriously exceed' safe radiation levels in China
- Official death toll reaches 10,000 - though expected to rise significantly
- Other workers exposed to 3,000 per cent more radiation than normal
- Tap water unsafe for drinking 60 miles from Tokyo, warn government
- Natural disaster could cost $310billion - most expensive in history
- More than 161,000 foreigners have left Japan since earthquake and tsunami
Some of the so called 'Fukushima Fifty' have been exposed to 10,000 times the normal amount of radiation as they battle to cool and restore power to the damaged nuclear plant, according to the Japan nuclear and industrial safety agency.
While the official death toll of the earthquake and resulting tsunami, which struck a fortnight ago, reached 10,000, many of the workers at Fukushima Dai-ichi, who have also been dubbed the Atomic Samurai, were taken to hospital after coming in to contact with contaminated water.
Three men were scorched when knee-deep water sloshed down their boots and the contamination is believed to have come from one of the plant's six reactors - reactor 3 - which is thought to have been cracked.
The Japan nuclear and industrial safety agency official, Hidehiko Nishiyama, said there is a possibility of 'some sort of leakage' from the reactor, and he speculated that the unit's containment vessel could have been cracked.
He implied that the damage may have occurred in the reactor's core, but that it was limited, and said: 'Something at the reactor may have been damaged. Our data suggest the reactor retains certain containment functions.'
Other officials said the damage at Fukushima, located 140 miles northeast of Tokyo, could instead have happened in other equipment, including piping or the spent fuel pool.
Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano has said a rigorous inquiry is under way to establish the cause of a leak at the plant.
Workers try to connect transmission lines to restore electric power supply to Unit 3 and Unit 4 at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okumamach
Wearing their protective radiation suits, some of the 536 helping to restore power to the plant, climb a transmission tower
Either way, with the levels of radiation so extremely high, it calls in to question whether the safety measures in place are adequate, where 536 people are currently stationed, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co. - the plant's official owners - including government authorities and firemen.
Workers are undertaking various measures to prevent the further release of radioactive substances into the air and beyond and 17 people already have been exposed to 100 or more millisieverts of radiation since the plant's crisis began two weeks ago after the size 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
To highlight the extreme levels of radiation, a person in an industrialised country is naturally exposed to 3 millisieverts of radiation a year - 3 per cent of the amount the workers are currently being exposed to.
While trying to limit the damage of the disaster, contaminated water somehow seeped through the workers' protective gear last night
In a televised address, Prime Minister Kan said this afternoon: 'The current situation is still very unpredictable.
'We're working to stop the situation from worsening. We need to continue to be extremely vigilant.'
He thanked the workers, firemen and Self-Defence Forces for 'risking their lives' to try to cool the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.
The Japanese government has said that it will offer transportation and other assistance to those in a buffer zone around the plant, admitting that those people have been put in a 'difficult' situation.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano said authorities are encouraging people living in the exclusion zone, between 20 and 30 kilometres (12.5 and 19 miles), from the plant to leave the area voluntarily because of the challenges they 'have faced in their daily lives'.
More alarm bells rang as Chinese officials revealed this morning that they have detained two Japanese travellers - thought to be trying to leave Japan - whose radiation levels were found to be well above safety limits.
'Tests showed that the two travellers seriously exceeded the limit,' the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) said.
The tourists flew into Wuxi city, located in the east of China, on Wednesday - and the radiation detected marks the first time serious contamination from the nuclear crisis in Japan has reached the country.
Sombre scene: Earthquake and tsunami victims are buried at a mass grave site in Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture
Grieving: A man pays his respects at the mass grave site
In a statement the agency said the individuals - from Nagano and Saitama prefectures - were given medical treatment and presented no risk to others.
As many scramble to escape the chaotic scenes and fall out, an immigration official confirmed today that more than 161,000 foreigners have left Japan since distaster struck a fortnight ago - an eight-fold increase from about 20,000 in the same period last year.
Meanwhile tap water tested at four sites in the Ibaraki prefecture - located in the north east, 60 miles from Japan's capital, Tokyo - all showed radiation levels above what is considered safe for babies to drink.
Government data released today - and taken from samples yesterday in the cities of Tokaimura and Hitachi - showed between a low of 119 becquerels of radioactive iodine per kilogram of water to a high of 230 becquerels of the same radioactive substance.
The Japanese government suggest that any level above 100 becquerels is not considered safe for one-year olds and younger to drink. However, the levels are still below the 300-becquerel limit recommended for all adults.
On hearing the news local residents - and those in Tokyo - stripped store shelves of bottled water and some other basic necessities.
'The first thought was that I need to buy bottles of water,' said Reiko Matsumoto, a real estate agent and mother of a five-year-old girl. 'I also don't know whether I can let her take a bath.'
In addition, radiation has been found in raw milk, seawater and 11 kinds of vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower and turnips, grown in areas around the plant.
While the country battle on as best they can, the official death toll passed the 10,000 mark today, and it is expected to rise for some time - the National Police Agency said more than 17,400 people are still missing.
Those tallies may overlap, but police from one of the hardest-hit prefectures, Miyagi, estimate that the deaths will top 15,000 in that region alone.
Hundreds of thousands of survivors are still camped out in temporary shelters, some 660,000 households do not have water and more than 209,000 do not have electricity.
Damage could rise as high as $310billion, the government said, making it the most costly natural disaster on record.
Risks: Three workers were exposed to radioactivity while laying electrical cables today at the Fukushima plant
This aerial photograph shows the moment went the tsunami, which struck on March 11, hit the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant
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