By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Japanese officials are calling for people to evacuate up to a distance of 10 kilometers from a quake-damaged nuclear power plant.
Government spokesman Yukio Edano said, “We ask everyone to take action to secure safety.”
The evacuation order follows an explosion earlier today which destroyed the walls of one of the buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeastern Japan, injuring several workers and causing a rise in the measured level of radioactivity in the area.
It remains unclear if the damaged building houses the plant’s reactor.
Officials now say they fear that more than 1,000 people may have been killed in the 8.9-magnitude earthquake that struck on March 11 and the subsequent tsunami waves that swept away thousands of houses, cars and boats on the country’s northeastern coast.
Massive Rescue And Clean-Up
A massive rescue and clean-up effort is now under way in the wake of the temblor, which has been described as the fifth most powerful earthquake to strike the world in the past century and Japan’s most severe ever.
Reports say more than 600 people have been confirmed killed so far, with more than 200 bodies reportedly found in the devastated northeastern coastal city of Sendai.
U.S. President Barack Obama expressed condolences and said the United States is ready to help its close ally in any way.
The quake triggered tsunami warnings for countries across the Pacific, including the west coast of the United States and Latin America, but the waves dissipated as they traveled across the ocean and damage to U.S. and Canadian coastal areas was relatively minor.