03/31/2011, 00.00
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Radiation risk mounts at Fukushima. Church sends volunteers to tsunami hit areas

by David Uribe
In the sea near the nuclear plant the concentration of radioactive iodine is 4,385 times higher than normal. Authorities claim there is no danger to health. The UN nuclear agency calls to expand the size of the evacuation area so far fixed at 20 km. In areas of the tsunami displaced people are lacking food, gas and fuel. Catholic Church gives shelter to families, women and children in homes and monasteries.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) – Radiation levels near the Fukushima nuclear power plant are on the rise. In the water of a canal 300 meters from the plant the level of radioactive iodine is 4,385 times legal limits. The data was disclosed today by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Experts say the concentration of radioactive iodine is at its maximum level. On March 27 the values exceeded 1850 times the standard. According to TEPCO, the company that operates the plant, particles of radioactive iodine once washed far out to sea should deteriorate and pose no risk to health. The company also announced the permanent closure of four reactors. The high level of radiation is concerning, the IAEA has called on the government to expand the evacuation area, now set at about 20 km from the plant. Today, the chief of staff Yukio Edan said that there are no immediate plans to proceed with the evacuation of homes, but that they may extend the area of restriction so far fixed 30 km. Edan said that controls of ground soil radiation will be also strengthened. But anxiety over the nuclear crisis is likely to overshadow the fate of the survivors of the terrible earthquake and tsunami, where even if in a small way, the Jpapanese Catholic Church is committed.

In the prefectures affected by the tsunami, the death toll now stands at 28 thousand dead or missing and the Church in Japan continues to send aid and volunteers to assist the displaced who lack food, oil and gas.

In areas to the north east of Sendai other Catholics who did not experience physical nor material damage, are giving hospitality to the people most affected and the Church has made available its schools and convents to shelter women with young children.

Recently, Sendai diocese opened in Shiogama (15 km from Sendai) and Ishinomaky (52 km north of Sendai) two centres for the recruitment of volunteers, in addition to the one organized in the capital on March 20. In Shiogama groups of young university students coordinated by Fr. Jose Alfredo Gonzales, a missionary of Guadalupe, help the authorities to clear streets and houses with tons of sea sand and debris left by the tsunami. In Ishinomaky, in addition to clearing the rubble, the volunteers are visiting the displaced people to check their medical conditions and provide, if necessary, immediate care at the medical center and set up in the area.

Catholics have also begun to repair some of the religious buildings damaged by the tsunami. In the parish of Sukagawa many faithful have delayed the reconstruction of their homes to clear the debris and collect the material needed to repair the church.
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See also
Tokyo, huge radioactive leak from Fukushima reactor
Fukushima still out of control: months or years to return to normal
Sea near Fukushima contaminated. Radiation 1,250 times over safety limit
Death toll climbs amid progress at Fukushima
Fukushima: signs of progress, but alarm over contaminated water, food and milk


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