Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Japan nuclear crisis: evacuees turned away from shelters

Hundreds of people evacuated from towns and villages close to the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant are being turned away by medical institutions and emergency shelters as fears of radioactive contagion catch on.

Hospitals and temporary refuges are demanding that evacuees provide them with certificates confirming that they have not been exposed to radiation before they are admitted.

The situation at the plant remains critical, with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency yesterday that radioactive iodine-131 at more than 3,350 times permitted levels has been found in a sample of seawater taken from near the facility.

The water is the most highly contaminated sample taken from the sea and indicates that radiation from the core of one or more of the reactors, where fuel rods have partly melted, is leaking into the Pacific Ocean.

A spokesman for the agency said the radioactivity poses no immediate threat to human health because fishing has been banned close to the plant and iodine will have been "significantly diluted" before it comes into contact with marine species and then enters the food chain for humans.

The eight-year-old daughter of Takayuki Okamura was refused treatment for a skin rash by a clinic in Fukushima City, where the family is living in a shelter after abandoning their home in Minamisoma, 18 miles from the crippled nuclear plant. (read more)