Japan tries to avert N-meltdown as 10,000 feared dead

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FUKUSHIMA – Japan fought on Sunday to avert a meltdown at three earthquake-crippled nuclear reactors and more than 10,000 people were feared dead in the nation’s biggest crisis since World War Two.
In the small port town of Minamisanriku alone some 10,000 people were unaccounted for – more than half the population of the town, which was practically erased, public broadcaster NHK reported.
“The earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear incident have been the biggest crisis Japan has encountered in the 65 years since the end of World War II,” a grim-faced Prime Minister Naoto Kan told a news conference. “We’re under scrutiny on whether we, the Japanese people, can overcome this crisis,” he added.
As he spoke, officials worked desperately to stop fuel rods in the damaged reactors from overheating, which could in turn melt the container that houses the core, or even explode, releasing radioactive material into the atmosphere. The government said a building housing a second reactor at the same complex in Fukushima was at risk of exploding after a blast blew the roof off the first the day before.
The complex is 240 kilometres north of Tokyo. Later it said it was pouring seawater into a third reactor to release a build-up of pressure. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the lowest state of emergency had been declared at a separate nuclear power plant north of the town of Sendai, which bore the brunt of the tsunami.
However, Japan’s nuclear safety agency said there had been a rise in radiation at the Onagawa facility due to leakage from the Fukushima plant and there was no problem with the cooling process there. Kan said the crisis was not another Chernobyl, referring to the nuclear disaster of 1986 in Soviet Ukraine.