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High radiation recorded 18 miles from nuke plant

Official admits that government 'could have moved a little quicker' in wake of disasters

Key details:
  • High levels of radiation found miles from nuke plant
  • U.N. atomic chief calls for world to help Japan
  • 6,500 dead, more than 10,300 missing following quake
  • Officials working to fix power cable to stricken reactors
  • Japan hails 'Samurai warriors' working at nuke plant
  • Tiny amounts of radiation reach California
High levels of radiation have been recorded 18 miles from Japan's quake-damaged nuclear power plant, officials said Friday.

Experts said exposure for just six hours would result in absorption of the maximum level considered safe for a year, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.

Heart - Black

Japanese earthquake takes heavy toll on ageing population

Shocking stories of deaths emerge as the military is enlisted to help at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant
elderly couple
© IFRC/Getty Images
An elderly couple sit near a woodburning stove in agymnasium being used to house those displaced by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in town of Otsuchi

The devastating impact of the Japanese earthquake on the country's ageing population was exposed on Thursday as dozens of elderly people were confirmed dead in hospitals and residential homes as heating fuel and medicine ran out.

In one particularly shocking incident, Japan's self-defence force discovered 128 elderly people abandoned by medical staff at a hospital six miles from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant. Most of them were comatose and 14 died shortly afterwards. Eleven others were reported dead at a retirement home in Kesennuma because of freezing temperatures, six days after 47 of their fellow residents were killed in the tsunami. The surviving residents of the retirement home in Kesennuma were described by its owner, Morimitsu Inawashida, as "alone and under high stress". He said fuel for their kerosene heaters was running out.

Almost a quarter of Japan's population are 65 or over, and hypothermia, dehydration and respiratory diseases are taking hold among the elderly in shelters, many of whom lost their medication when the wave struck, according to Eric Ouannes, general director of Doctors Without Borders' Japan affiliate.

This comes after Japan's elderly people bore the brunt of the initial impact of the quake and tsunami, with many of them unable to flee to higher ground.

Although the people from the hospital near Fukushima were moved by the self-defence forces to a gymnasium in Iwaki, there were reports that conditions were not much better there. An official for the government said it felt "helpless and very sorry for them". "The condition at the gymnasium was horrible," said Cheui Inamura. "No running water, no medicine and very, very little food. We simply did not have means to provide good care."

Top Secret

Japan's nuclear disaster caps decades of accidents and fake reports

© Tokyo Electric Power/Reuters
An aerial photo taken from a helicopter shows damage to the No. 4 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex.
Tokyo - The unfolding disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactors follows decades of falsified safety reports, fatal accidents, and underestimated earthquake risk in Japan's atomic power industry.

The destruction caused by last week's 9.0 earthquake and tsunami comes less than four years after a 6.8 quake shut the world's biggest atomic plant, also run by Tokyo Electric Power Co. In 2002 and 2007, disclosures the utility had faked repair records forced the resignation of the company's chairman and president and a three-week shutdown of all 17 of its reactors.

With almost no oil or gas reserves of its own, Japan has made nuclear power a national priority since the 1960s. Japan has 54 operating nuclear reactors - more than any other country except the United States and France - to power its industries, pitting economic demands against safety concerns in the world's most earthquake-prone country.

Nuclear engineers and academics who have worked in Japan's atomic power industry spoke in interviews of a history of accidents, faked reports, and inaction by a succession of Liberal Democratic Party governments that ran Japan for nearly all of the postwar period.

Arrow Up

Canada: Huge Toronto airport lineups 'unacceptable'

Toronto's Pearson International Airport and the Canada Border Services Agency said Thursday that a new plan would resolve a serious overnight backlog at customs that forced thousands of travellers to wait in line up to three hours.

Officials said that as of Thursday afternoon, crowds were under control following a situation on Wednesday evening in which March Break vacationers arrived home to bedlam at Canada's busiest airport.

Travel-weary flyers arrived at Terminal 1 only to be confronted with hordes of others waiting in line to get into the area where customs officers process travellers.

Vanessa Barrasa, a spokeswoman for the CBSA, said the lineups began in the mid-afternoon Wednesday. Although the agency called in a few more border guards so that 17 booths were staffed, it wasn't enough.

Barrasa said the staffing levels were based on information from the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA).

Scott Armstrong, a spokesman for the authority, which works with airlines to schedule flights, said the situation on Wednesday night was "entirely unacceptable," but promised it wouldn't happen again.

Bizarro Earth

Sitting silent in their classroom, the 30 children whose parents have not come to collect them after tsunami swept away their town

  • Reporters not allowed to speak to children to guard against false hope
  • Ishinomaki confirms the huge number of its citizens missing
  • North Eastern port town was hit by 20ft tsunami
  • Fears that overall death toll has been terribly underestimated
Even amid the carnage and despair of Japan's tsunami victims, the plight of the 30 children at Kama Elementary School is heartbreaking.

They sit quietly in the corner of a third-floor classroom where they have waited each day since the tsunami swept into the town of Ishinomaki for their parents to collect them. So far, no one has come and few at the school now believe they will.

Teachers think that some of the boys and girls, aged between eight and 12, know their fathers and mothers are among the missing and will never again turn up at the gates of the school on the eastern outskirts of the town, but they are saying nothing.

japan earthquake
© The Associated Press
Desolate: An elderly woman stands on a flooded street near her destroyed house at Ishinomaki, northeastern Japan, where 10,000 people are missing

Japan earthquake
© AFP / Getty Images
Wholesale destruction: A few ruined houses are all that lies scattered amid the sludge of Ishinomaki

Heart - Black

Japan quake survivors too shocked to contemplate the future

© STR/AFP/Getty Images
People stay close to the heater at a shelter at Yamada town in Iwate prefecture on March 16

A week after their lives were turned upside down by the biggest recorded earthquake in Japan's history, many survivors are too shocked to contemplate the future.

"My house does not exist anymore. Everything is gone, including money," said Tsukasa Sato, a 74-year-old barber with a heart condition, as he warmed his hands in front of a stove at a shelter in Yamada, northern Japan.

"This is where I was born, so I want to stay here. I don't know how it will turn out, but this is my hope."

The government said on Friday it was considering moving some of the hundreds of thousands of evacuees such as Sato to parts of the country unscathed by last week's tsunami and earthquake that killed thousands of people.

"We are considering it and making arrangements," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters.

That just adds to the uncertainty for victims like Sato, as snow continues to fall gently on what remains of the town -- once home to nearly 20,000 people but now a wasteland of shattered and charred rubble.

Much of what wasn't destroyed by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake was smashed to bits by the subsequent tsunami; what escaped the giant waves was torched by fires that broke out in the aftermath.


Serious Danger of a Full Core Meltdown: Update on Japan's Nuclear Catastrophe

Fears of a full-scale nuclear reactor meltdown are increasing as Japanese authorities use military helicopters to dump water on the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The water appears to have missed its target and failed to cool the plant's reactors and spent fuel rods. "The walls of defense are falling, with the melting of the cores, the collapsing of the - we're expecting the collapsing of the vessels. And then, with these damaged containments, these are all open windows to the atmosphere," says Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear. Some experts say U.S. reactors are safer than those in Japan. But investigative journalist, Karl Grossman, notes a 1985 report by the National Regulatory Commission acknowledged a 50 percent chance of a severe core accident among the more than 100 nuclear power plants in the United States over a 20-year period.


US: Overdose leaves Minnesota teen dead, 10 hospitalized

Blaine - One teen died and 10 teenagers and young adults were hospitalized Thursday after an apparent mass overdose on a designer hallucinogen at a suburban Minneapolis home, authorities said.

Investigators said the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has identified the drug as 2C-E. It appeared the hallucinogen, which is sometimes known on the street as "Europa" and has no approved medical use, was legally ordered over the Internet for a spring break party, said Paul Sommer, a commander in the Anoka County Sheriff's Office.

Bizarro Earth

'They're leaving us to die': Mayor of town near stricken Japanese nuclear plant claims his people have been 'abandoned'

'We've been left to die': Minamisoma's mayor Katsunobu Sakarai told the BBC his people felt alone and in danger
Residents of a town lying within the exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant claim they have been neglected by the Japanese government.

Minamisoma lies just 12 miles from the nuclear plant in crisis and villagers have been ordered to remain in their homes as their community lies on the edge of the state-ordered evacuation zone.

But as tonnes of water were dumped on the plant as the government attempted to prevent overheating, the mayor of Minamisoma has accused the authorities of ignoring his 'isolated' people's plight.

'They are leaving us to die,' Katsunobu Sakarai told the BBC in a video interview.

'We weren't told when the first reactor exploded - we only heard about it on the TV. The government doesn't tell us anything.'

Staff at the small town's hospital have remained with their patients although Minamisoma would be at a high risk of contamination should the plant at Fukushima enter meltdown.

'We're not really supposed to be here but this is our job,' said Dr Yukio Kanazawa.

'I really resent the nuclear plant.'

Supplies are said to be running low in the town, which has a population of around 1,700 and with fears of an imminent nuclear crisis, residents are receiving little help from relief teams.

Complaints from the abandoned people of Minamisoma come as the Japanese authorities resorted to dumping water on over-heating reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant from helicopters in a desperate last-ditch attempt to stop a catastrophic meltdown.

Experts have warned that they have 48 hours to avoid another Chernobyl.


US: Suicide at Costa Mesa City Hall

© Ken Sullivan, The Orange County Register
A city employee is held back by friends after charging at Councilmen Jim Righeimer and Stephen Mensinger at Costa Mesa City Hall after a maintenance worker jumped to his death Thursday afternoon just after more than 200 people were laid-off.
A city worker jumped off the roof of Costa Mesa City Hall this afternoon and died about an hour after he was called in to get his layoff notice.

About 3:20 p.m. the man jumped from the fifth floor of the building. Police said the man, who has not yet been identified pending notification of his family, was a 29-year-old maintenance worker with the city.

Two witnesses saw the man jump and attempted to help him after he landed.

The man, whom the Register is not identifying until next of kin has been notified, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The employee, who had been at home with a broken ankle, was not supposed to work today, but he was called in about 2:30 p.m. to receive his layoff notice.

The employee was not married and did not have children, although he had an extended family he helped support, according to two of his coworkers.

"This is a tragic event for the city and all of its employees," Lt. Bryan Glass said. "The city is concerned for their wellbeing and making efforts to help them through this."

Police taped off a large portion of the parking lot on the east side of City Hall.