Mar 232011
Authors: McClatchy-Tribune

TOKYO — Infants in Tokyo and five surrounding cities should not be allowed to consume tap water, the city’s government said Wednesday after elevated levels of radioactive iodine from a crippled nuclear plant were detected at a water treatment plant.

Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan urged consumers to not eat a dozen types of contaminated vegetables from the region surrounding the nuclear facility 150 miles northeast of the capital and also expanded a shipment ban.

Water tests in Tokyo found levels of radioactive iodine 131 at 210 becquerels per liter Tuesday and 190 becquerels per liter on Wednesday morning, about double the level of 100 becquerels per liter deemed safe for children under the age of 1. A level of 300 becquerels per liter is considered safe for adults.

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said the city’s water was safe for “non-potable” use and urged residents to remain calm. But some convenience stores were sold out of bottled water late Wednesday.

Workers continued their struggle to gain control over the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Dark smoke at the No. 3 reactor forced officials to evacuate the facility Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier, high temperatures at Reactor No. 1 and high radiation at Reactor No. 2 were reported, the government’s nuclear agency said, dashing hopes that re-establishing power to the entire plant on Tuesday would quickly help stabilize it.

The national government said damage from the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident could reach 25 trillion yen or nearly $310 billion, significantly more than the World Bank’s recent estimate of $235 billion. The disaster could shrink Japan’s gross domestic product by 0.5 percent in fiscal year 2011, which begins April 1, the government said.

As relief officials and evacuees continued to endure subfreezing temperatures, the National Police agency said the death toll had risen to 9,452 and the number of missing jumped by nearly 1,000 to 14,700.

In Yamada city, in Iwate City, UCLA pediatric critical care doctor Kozue Shimabukuro said snow was falling as evacuees at one local elementary school lined up for food. Residents’ mobility was improving after days in which they were only able to get around by foot, she said, thanks in part to Japanese Self-Defense Force troops clearing massive amounts of debris. A gas shortage also has eased.

“A portable shower was set up today, so it was a good day,” said Shimabukuro, 34, a native of Okinawa, who is volunteering with relief efforts.

 Posted by at 2:15 pm

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