03/16/2011, 00.00
JAPAN
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Damage to Fukushima reactors mounts. Foreigners flee

Reactor No. 4 latest to catch fire. Fears as temperature rises in No 5 and 6. Exhausted workers at risk of radiation briefly ordered to evacuate plant. The Director of the IAEA confirms that Fukushima is not Chernobyl, but the European commissioner speaks of an "apocalypse". Death toll climbs: 4000 and 8000 missing. In the cold, millions of survivors are without electricity or water.

Tokyo (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A fire and a fresh aftershock struck the Fukushima nuclear plant this morning. The government confirms that the level of radiation around the reactor has risen, requiring the remaining 50 technicians to briefly evacuate to a safe place. Radioactivity levels in Tokyo have also increased, but its impact is still non-hazardous to health. France has advised nationals to leave Japan or head south, Britain is advising citizens not to travel to Japan unless extremely necessary, China has sent two aircraft to transfer hundreds of countrymen home.

The fire this morning seems to have damaged the reactor No 4, yesterday it was the turn of No 2, a few days earlier the reactors 1 and 3 had suffered no damage. This morning at 7:00 technicians registered a rise in temperature in reactors 5 and 6. The March 11 earthquake and tsunami struck the cooling system, creating the risk that the bars of radioactive material could overheat and produce a nuclear fusion.

In recent days, due to the tsunami, the plant manager of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), sent home 750 of the 800 technical staff. The 50 who remained are now exhausted by the enormous emergency that they have been tirelessly struggling to contain. Japan has asked for help from the IAEA, the UN atomic agency, and U.S. experts. The Director of the IAEA, Japanese Yukiya Amano, has requested further information to understand how to intervene, today he described the explosion as "a very disturbing event", but ruled out that Fukyshima is "another Chernobyl".

So far, the air filled with radioactive particles has been dragged by the wind toward the sea in an easterly direction, but in Tokyo the level of radioactivity is 10 times higher than normal. Although not dangerous to human health, it is pushing many people, Japanese but especially foreigners, to leave.

The Japanese government has established a level four radioactive hazard, but according to the French atomic agency, the level is 6 (Chernobyl was 7). The European energy commissioner, Guenther Oettinger spoke of an "apocalypse" and believes that "almost everything is out of control" in Fukushima.

This is why Paris has advised its nationals to leave Tokyo or move to the south of the country. China has sent two more aircraft than usual and two ships to collect Chinese who want to return home. Several airlines have cancelled flights to and from Tokyo for security reasons.

The nuclear crisis threatens to overshadow the tsunami emergency. The death toll has climbed to over 4000, with at least 8,000 still missing. Approximately 850 thousand people in the north are without electricity and 1.5 million without running water, in a climate of severe cold.

The Nikkei closed with a growth of 6% after dropping 17% in the past two days.
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