Live updates: Nuclear emergency declared in earthquake-struck Japan

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Live updates: Nuclear emergency declared in earthquake-struck Japan

  • By Paul Colgan, Owen Vaughan, Fay Gould, Simon Black and AJ Banks
  • From: news.com.au
  • March 17, 2011 8:25AM

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A MAJOR 8.8-magnitude earthquake has struck Japan. Latest updates will be posted by news.com.au below as they come to hand.

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Concerned for Australians missing in Japan? Call DFAT on +1300 555 135

* Report on the quake from the USGS
* Local coverage from Japan at NHK English
* Latest #japan updates on Twitter
* Japan earthquake on Facebook

Google: Person Finder

Crisis Response

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8.19am: The nuclear power quandry summed up neatly in two phrases by Reuters columnist Devra Davis. The president of the Environmental Health Trust and award-winning scientist balances this:

“Nuclear-powered energy appears to be one of the greenest forms of energy in the world, because it releases no carbon-containing greenhouse gases when working.”

with this:

“Girls who worked hand-painting clock dials with luminescent radioactive paint and wet their brushes with their tongues to craft fine lines lost their jawbones years later.”

7.58am TOLL UPDATE: Six days after the earthquake struck, there’s still no way to comprehend the scale of the disaster in terms of loss of human life. The most reliable estimate is an official “unaccounted for” tally of 12,920. Of those, 4314 are confirmed dead.

Outside of that are these likely large-scale losses:

  • Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture – 10,000 missing
  • Minamisanriku in Miyagi prefecture – 10,000 missing
  • Honshu island – 55,000 homes destroyed

7.21am All your questions about nuclear fallout answered by the New York Times team, including this remarkable fact:

“…About 98 percent of a person’s dose comes from drinking contaminated milk, and if fallout were to reach here (again, unlikely) most people could protect themselves by not drinking milk or eating dairy products. “

6.42am Are you in danger of radiation poisoning? Nerves are fraying across the Pacific as media outlets deploy graphics such as these portraying the possible spread of contaminated clouds from the Philippines to Canada.

Radiation spread

Australia’s food safety authority is also keeping a close eye on wasabi, seawood and noodle imports. In the meantime, here’s a checklist outlining 16 signs of radiation poisoning.

5.20am A rare televised address by Emperor Akihito has emphasised the gravity of the crisis gripping Japan – it is he first time he has intervened in a national crisis.

He said he was “deeply concerned” about the “unpredictable” situation at the stricken Fukushima No.1 power plant. “I sincerely hope that we can keep the situation from getting worse.”

4.25am Kyodo is reporting the US military plans to fly an unmanned plane over Fukushima, equipped with infrared sensors in an effort to gauge what is happening. An earlier attempt to douse the plant with water from a helicopter was unsuccesful after radiation levels proved too high.

4.04am IAEA secretary general Yukiya Amano said in a press conference he plans to go to Japan as early as tomorrow and urged Japan to provide better information to the agency.

“There are too many elements that we do not know yet. So it is too early for us to pass judgement on their efforts,” – Yukiya Amano

He did confirm that core damage had occurred to three units at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.

“The situation … is very serious.”

Secretary General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano. Picture: AP

Austria Nuclear Agency Japan

3.48am Some good news, Lady Gaga has reportedly raised $253,000 in 48 hours for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan by selling plastic wristbands that say “We pray for Japan”.

3.07am Kyodo news agency is reporting new plumes of smoke appear to be coming from the building housing Reactor No. 3.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said in the morning that the smoke from the nuclear plant was identified from about 8:30 a.m. and it was possible that ”steam has been released from the (No. 3) reactor’s containment vessel.”

This grim news comes as the International Atomic Energy Agency reports core damage at units 1-3 has been confirmed.

Reiko Miura, 68, cries as she looks for her sister’s son at a tsunami-hit area in Otsuchi. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

Japan’s Self Defence Force soldiers search for missing people in a snow covered field in Miyako. Picture: AFP

JAPAN-QUAKE

2.40am Reuters is reporting the EU’s Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger has said the situation in Japan is “effectively out of control”.

“There could be catastrophic events within the coming hours. The cooling systems did not work, and as a result we are somewhere between a disaster and a major disaster.” – Günther Oettinger

This stands in contrast to two nuclear experts who are taking questions on the Reuters live blog now. They are urging calm and stressing information out of the region does not indicate such a conclusion, however they admit they do not have all the information.

“Most of the material would be expected to fall to the ground quickly, and not be carried long distances. (In contrast to the Chernobyl accident, where a graphite fire lifted radioactive material into the upper atmosphere, which was then carried all over the globe),” - Dr Peter Caracappa

Survivors brave falling snow at Sendai, Miyagi prefecture. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

2.08am The University of Canterbury in New Zealand has created an interactive map showing the seismic activity which has hit Japan. The sheer number of aftershocks is staggering. Change the time setting at the top right hand side.

Quake

1.40am There is a worrying account from Australians trapped in Tokyo who are pleading for government support to leave Japan as the threat of a nuclear catastrophe looms.

A graphic showing the locations of the troubled nuclear plants in Japan.

Japan's Nuclear Power Plant Threat

1.11am Japan’s health ministry says at least 1.6 million households are still without water.

1.06am Tragic news. NHK World is reporting the death toll has risen to 4340 confirmed deaths. Including 2207 in Miyagi Prefecture and 1545 in Iwate Prefecture. More than 9,000 others are still missing.

A ship is beached amongst the rubble of a village destroyed by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Kesennuma. Picture: Getty Images

110109617_PB001WEDQUAKEJAPAN

1.05am The BBC is reporting the US military has sent two fire trucks to help with fires at one of Japan’s nuclear plants, but the Pentagon says it has not been asked to use its troops for the developing nuclear crisis.

12.58am Kyodo news agency is now reporting water injection into spent fuel pools at No. 3 and No. 4 reactors are being undertaken as a priority. They quote the country’s nuclear agency as saying the spent fuel pool at Reactor No. 3 is increasing in heat and has begun emitting steam.

12.52am Underwater telecommunications cables between Taiwan and the US have been damaged by Friday’s earthquake (AFP).

12.50am The BBC has noticed an apology for an “abnormal noise” coming from the plant on the website for Fukushima plant operators TEPCO:

“We are aware of and sincerely apologize for the great distress and inconvenience this incident has caused to not just those inhabitants residing in the immediate vicinity but also society at large,” – TEPCO

The website also has updates and press-releases from TEPCO.

A red flag indicating bodies are laid flaps in the wind at a devastated area in Rikuzentakata. Picture: AP

110109617_PB001WEDQUAKEJAPAN

12.35am China’s Xinhua news agency is reportingthe country will donate 10,000 tonnes of diesel and 10,000 tonnes of gasoline to Japan to help counter shortages.12.25am Thai authorities have announced they will distribute potassium iodide tablets to citizens travelling to Japan to protect against radiation from the damaged nuclear plants. Potassium iodide protects the thyroid gland against cancer by blocking absorption of radioactive iodine. Supplies in Japan have become short, and panic buying has been reported as far away as North America (AP).

12.20am The Japanese PM’s office has launched a new English-language Twitter account which “mainly updates the situation of the Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Earthquake”.

12.17am The number of Australians unaccounted for in Japan has dropped to 55 according to DFAT.

11.51pm The Guardian has this troubling article interviewing scientists about the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant. They are very concerned about the possibility of a fire in the spent fuel pools.

“The spent fuel pool in unit 4 is boiling, and once that starts you can’t stop it,” – Jim Riccio, a nuclear expert at Greenpeace.

“The threat is that if you boil off the water, the metal cladding on the fuel rods that is exposed to the air, and is volatile, will catch fire. That will propel the radiation even further.”

Tsunami survivors’ notes seeking information about their missing relatives and friends put up on the entrance of Natori City Hall in Natori. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

11.34pm Kyodo has this useful breakdown of the status of the reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

  • Reactor No. 1 – Suspended after quake, cooling failure, partial melting of core, vapor vented, building damaged Saturday by hydrogen explosion, seawater being pumped in.
  • Reactor No. 2 - Suspended after quake, cooling failure, seawater being pumped in, fuel rods fully exposed temporarily, vapor vented, building housing reactor damaged Monday by blast at reactor No. 3, damage to containment vessel on Tuesday, potential meltdown feared.
  • Reactor No. 3 - Suspended after quake, cooling failure, partial melting of core feared, vapor vented, seawater being pumped in, building housing reactor damaged Monday by hydrogen explosion, high-level radiation measured nearby on Tuesday, plume of smoke observed Wednesday, damage to containment vessel likely.
  • Reactor No. 4 - Under maintenance when quake struck, fire Tuesday possibly caused by hydrogen explosion at pool holding spent fuel rods, abnormal temperature rise in spent-fuel storage pool but water level not observed, fire observed Wednesday at building housing reactor, no water poured in to cool pool, spraying of boric acid being considered.
  • Reactors No. 5, No. 6 - Under maintenance when quake struck, temperatures slightly rising in spent-fuel storage pools.

11.12pm The Kyodo breaking feed is reporting the Japanese government has said it is unlikely Reactor No.3 has sustained major damage to its containment vessel.

10.58pm Matters are becoming increasingly desperate at the Fukushima plant.

NHK is reporting the Japanese government has upped the amount of radiation staff can legally be exposed to. Staff can now be exposed to 250 millisieverts in cases of emergency. NHK notes this is still below the general international standard of 500 millisieverts.

Kyodo news agency is reporting tap water readings in Fukushima are now showing iodine or cesium and that Japanese police are considering using a special water cannon truck to attempt to cool a pool storing spent fuel rods at the troubled No. 4 reactor.

British search and rescue workers search under a roof in Ofunato. Picture: AP

APTOPIX Japan Earthquake

A man rides a bicycle past houses destroyed in the city of Kesennuma in Miyagi. Picture: AFP

JAPAN-QUAKE

10.11pm The Japanese defense minister has called up reservists from the Self Defence Forces to join relief efforts in areas hit by the earthquake and tsunami, according to JiJi press.

10.08pm China is the latest country to inspect its nuclear power stations as the crisis continues at Fukushima. Government officials said they will examine power stations currently under construction and that any failing to meet safety standards will be immediately halted. It has also frozen approvals on new plants (Reuters).

9.40pm The Japanese government says radiation from the nuclear plant poses no immediate health threat outside the zone they have already evacuated. Authorities earlier moved tens of thousands of people out of the area within 20 kilometres of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 plant (AFP).

9.21pm TEPCO says it is pouring water into reactors 5 and 6 in an attempt to cool them (Reuters). This comes as it emerges the helicopter mission to drop water onto Reactor No. 3 was aborted because radiation levels have become too high (NHK).

9.17pm Reuters is reporting cabinet secretary Edano has said Japan will consider setting up a ministry of reconstruction for what is likely to be at least five years of reconstruction.

8.56pm Hoax messages warning about radiation spreading beyond Japan have stoked growing unease throughout Asia. Purporting to be a BBC newsflash, hoax text messages and emails telling people to stay inside and swab their thyroid glands with iodine solution to guard against radiation sickness, and have been reported as far afield as India.

8.47pm Statistics on Australians in Japan from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as at 7.30pm (AEDT) today:
Number of calls received in Canberra: 9009;
Australians in Japan confirmed safe: 3539;
Number registered in Japan: 3949;
Number safe in affected areas: 163;
Number of Australians unaccounted for: 58.

8.38pm A pool containing spent fuel rods at Fukushima’s No. 4 reactor “is the major concern” in Japan’s nuclear crisis, presenting the risk of radioactivity being released directly into the air, a French safety agency said. The deep tank at the reactor unit contains used fuel rods which are extremely radioactive and normally are kept immersed in cooling water.

8.13pm Survivors and rescue crews in disaster-stricken regions – already facing an acute lack of water, supplies and fuel, power blackouts and poor telecommunications – have had their troubles compounded by snow flurries over roads and rubble.

snow rescue crews japan

8.08pm A mission to spray water on the damaged No. 3 reactor at the stricken Fukushima plant using a helicopter has been aborted because of safety concerns, broadcaster NHK reported.

7.45pm A Japanese military helicopter has been deployed on a mission to dump water from a huge bucket onto fuel rods at the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant. The Self-Defence Forces twin-rotor CH-47 Chinook was shown taking off and flying to the plant by public television NHK.

7.07pm Toyota will resume partial production of car parts at seven plants in Japan tomorrow.

6.55pm JAPAN’S Emperor Akihito said he was praying for the safety of the people in the wake of last week’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. In a rare TV interview he said:

The number of people killed is increasing day by day and we do not know how many people have fallen victim. I pray for the safety of as many people as possible.

6.25pm Melbourne teacher Ren Gregoric, 22, accused local authorities of failing to reveal the extent of the danger from radiation leaking from the crippled Dai-ichi power plant in northern Japan.

He said as a result locals were largely oblivious to the deadly potential of the radiation and he had to plead with fellow expatriates to join him.

6.05pm Indonesia has confirmed it plans to go ahead with plans to build four nuclear reactors near a volatile fault line, despite the ongoing crisis in Japan, insisting theirs will be safe.

5.35pm Meanwhile the effects of the double disaster to hit Japan are already being felt across the US with thousands of wildlife wiped out near Hawaii and the American tourism industry set to tumble from the downturn in Japanese tourists.

Japanese tourists, who bring an estimated $1.93bn into the US economy a year, are expected to take a sharp dive and account for the fourth larest numbers of visitors to the US, MarketWatch reported.

5.15pm Japan has issued an urgent call for assistance for thousands of refugees sheltered near the Fukushima nuclear plant.  Koriyama city mayor Masao Hara said the region urgently needed supplies of oil, food and water.

5pm The number of Australians who remain missing has been revised to 94, according to Sky News.

4.50pm Food Standards Australia New Zealand said a probe was now underway to assess a narrow band of imported products including seaweed, wasabi and soy sauce for evidence of potential contamination.

4.24pm The official toll of the dead and missing following a devastating earthquake and tsunami that flattened Japan’s northeast coast has topped 11,000, with 3676 confirmed dead, police said. The total number of people unaccounted for in the wake of Friday’s twin disasters rose by more than 800 to 7558, the national police agency said in its latest update. The number of injured stood at 1990.

4.20pm An Australian living in Japan has told the ABC he is growing incredibly nervous about the unfolding nuclear crisis. James Brown, who lives 80kms from the stricken plant told the ABC:

It’s pretty tough and concerning situation as you can imagine. You don’t know whether to sit and stay and ride it out or take the bolt immediately.

3.56pm Workers at Japan’s earthquake-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant have been allowed to return to the site after they were temporarily evacuated following a rise in radiation levels. The evacuation order was issued at 10.40am local time (12.40pm AEDT) and about an hour later workers were allowed to return when the radiation spike subsided, Kyodo News reported.

3.47pm Experts are reassuring people there’s little chance – at least for now – that radiation from Fukushima could pose a serious threat to the wider world. The amount of radioactivity emitted by the facility is relatively minor and should dissipate quickly over the Pacific Ocean. Peter Caracappa, a radiation safety officer and clinical assistant professor of nuclear engineering, said: “Every mile of ocean it crosses, the more it disperses.”

3.29pm Japanese stocks have rebounded today, recovering some of the massive losses sustained the past two days following a devastating earthquake and tsunami. Other Asian indices have also bounced back.

3.25pm Japan government says ready to seek cooperation with the US military as it battles to avert catastrophe at a stricken nuclear plant hit by fire and explosions as radiation levels spike.

3.17pm Aviation regulators in London have issued a formal warning over the possible radioactive hazard from Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant. London Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre issued a message covering 10 regions. The open-ended warning applies to airspace zones in Japan, Russia, China, the US and South Korea.

3.10pm A strong 6.0 magnitude earthquake has struck in the Pacific just off Chiba prefecture, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, with the force strong enough to sway buildings in Tokyo. No tsunami warning was immediately issued but the agency warned of a possible change in sea levels.

3.05pm A US nuclear expert said he feared the worst after workers were told to evacuate from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant. David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer who heads the nuclear safety program for activist group the Union of Concerned Scientists said:

It’s more of a surrender. It’s not like you wait 10 days and the radiation goes away. In that 10 days things are going to get worse. It’s basically a sign that there’s nothing left to do but throw in the towel.

2.58pm Japan’s nearest neighbours – Russia, the Korean peninsula and China – say they don’t foresee any immediate effects of radiation from Japan’s nuclear crisis. Authorities in Singapore said no abnormal changes in radiation levels have been detected, after fake text messages reportedly claimed acid rain could reach Singapore, more than 5000km southwest of Japan.

2.52pm Hong Kong has widened its top-level black travel alert to three more Japanese prefectures.

2.43pm South Korea plans to send an emergency shipment of cooling material to Japan to help control its quake-damaged nuclear reactors. Tokyo has asked for 52 tonnes of boron, a key material used for regulating nuclear chain reactions, as it is running short of the metalloid to cool the overheated Fukushima reactors, Seoul said. “We’ve sent boron samples. Now, we are scraping up all we got,” a South Korean official said.

2.21pm Governor says radiation levels in Tokyo 20 times normal, The Japan Times reports.

2.08pm The level of radiation at the plant surged to 1000 millisieverts today before coming down to 800-600 millisieverts. Still, that was far more than the average.

“So the workers cannot carry out even minimal work at the plant now,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said. “Because of the radiation risk, we are on standby.”

Experts say exposure of around 1000 millisieverts is enough to cause radiation sickness.

1.58pm Japan abandons stricken nuclear plant due to surge in radiation.

1.41pm Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez said he is suspending his country’s fledgling nuclear energy program.

1.37pm Workers at Japan’s earthquake-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant were evacuated today after radiation levels rose, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, said.

“All the workers there have suspended their operations. We have urged them to evacuate, and they have,” he said, according to a translation by NHK television.

1.21pm Japan’s Cabinet Secretary is giving a live press conference on Fukushima now: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nhk-world-tv

1.16pm Japan is considering spraying water and boric acid over the stricken nuclear plant in a desperate measure to contain radiation.

1.09pm Four members of Australia’s search and rescue team forced to land at Fukushima airport – 40km from nuclear plant. Very low levels of radiation were detected on their shoes. They have undergone decontamination and are well, says Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

1.05pm More than 500 bone marrow transplant centres in Europe have been asked to receive victims of the nuclear accident in Japan if necessary.

1:02pm White smoke update. White smoke seen billowing from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is coming from the No. 3 reactor (not No. 4 reactor), the country’s nuclear safety agency confirmed to Kyodo News. The facility’s embattled operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), said it may be steam.

12:35pm Some financial updates:

  • Tokyo shares are up more than 6.2 per cent on bargain hunting following the biggest two-day sell-off on the Nikkei for 24 years on fears of the threat of nuclear meltdown after a huge earthquake and tsunami
  • The Australian share market rallied this morning, with the ASX 200 index rising 50.7 points to 4579.4 and the All Ordinaries index up by 52.8 points at 4662.7
  • The Australian dollar was lower at noon, trading at 99.47 US cents, despite recovering some losses after a dramatic overnight session

12:25pm Fire risk returns. White smoke was seen coming from the No. 4 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant today after officials said earlier that a fire at the reactor was extinguished, broadcaster NHK reported.

In the image below from Japan’s NHK television, white smoke, centre, billows from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex . The Japanese at the bottom reads “filmed from 30 kilometres away.” / AP

Japan Earthquake Nuclear Crisis

12:05pm An Australian in Japan, Ren Gregoric, 22, says he doesn’t trust the information coming out of the Japanese Government, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

My message is don’t listen to the Japanese media, don’t listen to the Japanese Government because they’re trying to keep Japanese people calm, which I completely understand, but I don’t think that they’re giving the full truth. I think that by not telling people the complete truth, people aren’t able to make rational decisions, and the only rational decision at the moment is to get out.

11.53am

@DailyYomiuriThe Nikkei surges 500 points in morning trading to go back over 9,000.

11:38am The Bank of Japan has pumped another 3.5 trillion yen ($43.53 billion) into the financial system, adding to the trillions spent Monday and Tuesday to soothe shaken markets.

11:30am Moving Guardian piece on Ishinomaki, where bodies are piled up as officials try desperately to feed survivors.

11:20am An update on the latest key developments from Japan:

  • Death toll expected to reach 10,000, with 3570 confirmed dead, NHK World says
  • More than 440,000 people in shelters and some have yet to receive supplies
  • About 850,000 households still without electricity , ABC News reports
  • Fire at Fukushima is under control but major issues remain at the nuclear plant

11:15am Australian woman Emily Peck, 27, who was near a Japanese nuclear power plant when it was rocked by an explosion said that initial tests have cleared her of contamination, AAP reports.

10:55am Aussie update. Almost 150 Australians are still missing following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

10:33am Interesting piece from The New York Times about how the Mark 1 nuclear reactor design of the Fukushima Daiichi plant has long been questioned by experts.

The warnings were stark and issued repeatedly as far back as 1972: If the cooling systems ever failed at a Mark 1 nuclear reactor, the primary containment vessel surrounding the reactor would probably burst as the fuel rods inside overheated. Dangerous radiation would spew into the environment.

10.08am Story on the brave souls who are still at Fukushima Daiichi trying to stop the nuclear crisis, from The Sydney Morning Herald.

They are known as the “Fukushima 50″ and two of them are missing after an explosion and fire at one of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant yesterday and a new fire there today.

10:00am Japanese authorities now say the fire in Fukushima Daiichi reactor No. 4 is “under control”, according to AFP.

9:50am Hard to believe, but someone thought it would be funny to post on a site set up to track people missing after the Japan earthquake and tsunami that Ashley Russell’s daughter, Alice Byron, was dead. She isn’t, and he’s not very impressed.

There are some evil people out there. Her employer told me other people had suffered the same hoax as well.

9:38am Easy-to-understand interactive explaining the Japanese nuclear crisis from The New York Times. How a Reactor Shuts Down and What Happens in a Meltdown

nytimes graphic

9:27am A young Japanese survivor of the earthquake and tsunami searches her family home for any belongings she can find in the levelled city of Minamisanriku, in northeastern Japan / AP

APTOPIX Japan Earthquake

Japanese vehicles pass through the ruins of the levelled city of Minamisanriku, northeastern Japan / AP

APTOPIX Japan Earthquake

9:24am Engineers are keeping a close eye on reactors 5 and 6 at Fukushima Daiichi, where cooling systems appear to have failed, ABC News reports.

9:16am Ravaged hospital symbol of stoicism – A great colour piece from The Australian explaining how the Japanese are coping with their disaster

Senen General in Tagajo is a hospital of 113 patients and two doctors, without water, electricity and scarcely any food or drugs.

8:53am The operator of Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant says another fire has broken out at its No. 4 reactor unit. A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power says the blaze erupted early today in the outer housing of the reactor’s containment vessel. Fire fighters are trying to put out the flames. It comes after a fire broke out yesterday in the reactor’s fuel storage pond where used nuclear fuel is kept cool causing radioactivity to be released into the atmosphere.

8:42am The operator of Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant now says it has scrapped a plan to use helicopters to pour water into a reactor whose overheating fuel storage unit is emitting radiation. The storage pool, used to hold spent nuclear fuel rods, caught fire yesterday in an alarming escalation of Japan’s nuclear crisis. The blaze was extinguished but fears remain that water may boil away and the rods could be dangerously exposed.

8:23am Nuclear emergency round-up. Japanese say they may pour water from helicopters to stop fuel rods from being exposed to the air and releasing even more radioactivity. Radiation near the quake-hit Fukushima No.1 plant has reached levels harmful to health and was high overnight, officials said, advising thousands of people to stay indoors after two explosions and a fire at the facility. Four of the six reactors at the crippled facility, 250 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, have now overheated and sparked explosions since Friday’s massive earthquake and tsunami knocked out their cooling systems.

8:00am Some highlights of today’s Australian papers on Japan:

The Australian’s Peter Alford reports from Toyko about the nuclear threat as further explosions and a fire at the earthquake-crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant sent dangerous levels of radiation into the atmosphere

Powerful colour piece about visiting an effective ghost town from The Sydney Morning Herald’s John Garnaut.

THE satellite photo tells me there is a town of 17,000 people ahead. It is lying. There’s nothing there at all. Just a great big stormwater drain; a couple of scrunched cars, but they don’t look out of place – like the shopping trolleys collecting leaves and rubbish in my creek back home.

Adam Cresswell, from The Australian, provides the alarming details of what radiation can do to the human body.

7:57am JAPAN’S nuclear safety agency said early today the roof of Fukushima reactor No.4 is cracked.

The agency also said that two workers were missing following yesterday’s explosion at the reactor, Reuters reported.

7:44am And a counter-point from Gavin Atkins, a former employee of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, titled Fukushima facts obscured in fog of misinformation.

Having studied previous nuclear accidents closely through the years, everyone at the (International Atomic Energy Agency) would know that some of the worst consequences of nuclear accidents have turned out to be social and psychological effects on neighbouring populations, even on people who were not anywhere near the path of radiation.

7:34am Some views from nuclear nonproliferation expert, Jeffrey Lewis, at his blog Arms Control Wonk, about just how dangerous the damage to the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Plant is to human life. In short, he agrees with this ominous story from CNN, Official: Japan’s nuclear situation nearing severity of Chernobyl.

(Nuclear authorities in Japan have) has released another statement that confirms the spent fuel at Reactor 4 burned for about three hours before they were able to put it out.

This is very bad news — yesterday, I noted this was the wildcard scenario. The radiation release was very large — detectors recorded a measurement of 400 millisieverts per hour. Milli, not micro. People can stop with the comparisons to airline flights or X-rays, unless you get your X-rays performed at DARHT.

If you are scoring at home, most folks I know seem to think we are at INES 6 now, heading for 7 (and the Ch-word) unless (Japanese nuclear authorities) catches a break.

7:20am Combination of satellite images of Japan, courtesy of DigitalGlobe, shows damage after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami at the Fukushima Daichi Power Plant in Japan / AP.

JAPAN-QUAKE-NUCLEAR

7:03am Latest figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade about Australians in Japan.

  • Number of calls received in Canberra: 8480
  • Australians in Japan confirmed as safe: 3226
  • Number registered in Japan: 3707
  • Number safe in affected areas: 119
  • Number of Australians unaccounted for: 139

6:40am A graphic from The Australian showing the possible effects of radiation poisoning.

oz graphic

6:30am Press statement from Toyko Electrical Power Company about an explosion at reactor 4 of the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Station.

(A) loud explosion was heard from within the power station. Afterwards, it was confirmed that the 4th floor rooftop area of the Unit 4 Nuclear Reactor Building had sustained damage. After usage, fuel is stored in a pool designated for spent fuel. Plant conditions as well as potential outside radiation effects are currently under investigation.

6:15am Another tale of miraculous survival. A Japanese man in his 20s was rescued in Ishimona, after being trapped for 96 hours. Watch the video at the BBC’s website.

5:55am Happy tale of two pet dogs, Towa and Melody, who managed to defy the earthquake and survive, from The Wall Street Journal.

5:45am Nuclear fears grow around the world.

In Russia’s far east near Japan, residents bought up pills to prevent radiation sickness and military units prepared to evacuate towns. The French announced they would check all 58 of their nuclear reactors. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would temporarily shut down seven nuclear power plants and begin a safety review of all of the country’s 17 plants. Officials in Switzerland said the country would suspend plans to build and replace nuclear plants. Finally, European energy ministers said they were considering introducing stress tests for the the area’s 143 nuclear plants.

5:29am Good morning. An overview of the latest developments in the Japan disaster.

  • Official death toll is 3373, but 10,000 feared dead in Myagi alone
  • Crews battling to avert a nuclear disaster to stop fuel rods from being exposed
  • Radiation near Fukushima No.1 plant has reached levels harmful to health
  • Food, water and fuel are running short in parts of Japan, authorities say
  • Large sections of the country remain without power
  • Share markets around the world have plunged as investors flee risk over Japan concerns
  • 143 Australians in disaster zone +have not yet been located

4.07am The EU has has reached agreement to conduct “stress tests” on the continent’s nuclear power plants. Energy chief Guenther Oettinger the tests would be conducted on a “voluntary” basis and test if reactors could resist earthquakes, tsunamis and terrorist attacks.

“We want to look at the risk and safety issues in the light of events in Japan.”

A Japanese rescuer walks across an area devastated by the tsunami in Sendai. Picture: AFP

JAPAN-QUAKE

4.05am Reuters is also reporting the possibility of core damage at Reactor No.2:

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told a news conference that there was a “possibility of core damage” at unit 2. “The damage is estimated to be less than 5 pct.”

3.28am The Japanese government has ordered an injection of water into the spent fuel pool at Reactor No. 4, Kyodo news agency reports. The plant’s operator earlier today expressed concerns that water in a pool storing spent nuclear fuel rods may be boiling, sparking fears of a release of high-level radioactive materials from the fuel.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano stated at a press conference that monitoring equipment at the plant was not indicating such a release.

”We believe very high-level radioactive substances have not been emitted continuously from the No. 4 reactor.” – Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.

2.49am Panic selling has hit the US and European stock markets amid fears that a nuclear meltdown in quake-hit Japan could threaten the global economy. The New York Stock Exchange reportedly invoked a rarely used rule to smooth trading volatility, but to little avail as The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell about 2 two per cent in opening US trade, losing more than 250 points.

“The global equity markets are posting solid losses following reports of rising nuclear radiation levels in Japan after more explosions hit an already damaged nuclear power facility.”

2.20am This photo shows Fujiko Chiba, who was stranded in an isolated evacuation center for five days as she is rescued by Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members in Ishinomaki, Miyagi. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

2.18am Owner and operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, TEPCO now says it may resort to pouring water from a helicopter onto the station’s Reactor No. 4 in an attempt to cool the spent-fuel pool (BBC).

1.41am The International Atomic Energy Agency says there is a 30km no-fly zone in place around the Fukushima plant with fears that yesterday’s explosion may have affected integrity of main containment vessel.

1.34am The US Geological Survey has confirmed the latest aftershock measured at 6.1. Friday’s earthquake measured at 9.0.

1.25am Shizuoka police say fire has broken out in Fujinomiya city in the wake of a major aftershock, Kyodo news agency reports.

1.13am The US says it has detected low-level radioactivity at its Yokosuka military base south of Tokyo. This suggests the radiation from the stricken plants could quite possibly be spreading.

1.07am Grim news as the confirmed death toll rises to 3373 with 6746 unnacounted for. This news comes as authorities state the crisis at the crippled Fukushima plant now rates six on a seven-point international scale of gravity for nuclear accidents.

“The incident has taken on a completely different dimension compared to Monday. It is clear that we are at level six,” – Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of France’s Nuclear Safety Authority. “The order of gravity has changed.”

The crisis now ranks above the 1979 Three Mile Island disaster in the US, which is rated at five and only comes in below the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine, which ranks at maximum seven.

12.56am Kyodo news agency is reporting there is no danger of another tsunami from the recent aftershock. Both TEPCO and Chubu Electric Hamaoka say their power plants continue to be working normally after the quake (NHK & Reuters).

A BBC reporter in Japan said he was in his room preparing for his live cross when the quake hit.

“We most definitely felt it here. The buildings were shaking, I just sat there rooted to my seat, I didn’t know what to do. It went on for four or five seconds.” – BBC reporter Clive Myrie.

12.39am A strong aftershock has hit Japan. Preliminary magnitude for the quake place it at 6.0 (Reuters).

12.30am The nuclear crisis has sparked panic buying of iodine pills, AFP reports, with online bids exceeding $500 for a single packet. However health experts are warning the pills are of limited use.

“Consult your #doctor before taking #iodine pills. Do not self-medicate!” the World Health Organisation said on its Twitter page.

12.25am Read this account of a father who thought his daughter was killed during the tsunami in Japan after he was the target of a hoax.

“There are some evil people out there. Her employer told me other people had suffered the same hoax as well.”

12.10am Kyodo news agency is now reporting TEPCO is unable to pour water into the No. 4 reactor’s storage pool for spent fuel. There is no detail as of yet about why they are unable to do so. Water is used to cool the overheating reactor.

11.47pm Reuters is reporting the holes in the wall of Reactor No. 4 have left the spent nuclear fuel pool exposed to the outside air.

Members of a British search and rescue team walk through a smoldering industrial facility in Ofunato. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

11.26pm South Korea’s Meteorological Administration has released the results of a weather simulation showing radioactive particles from Japan’s damaged power plant will drift toward the Pacific (Kyodo).

11.19pm Kyodo news agency is reporting radiation levels at the No. 4 reactor have risen to a level where staff are unable to stay in the control rooms.

Workers cannot stay in the room long and so are going in and out alongside monitoring from a different room.

The news comes as government officials report radiation levels at Tokyo are 10 times the usual amount for the city but it does not pose a threat to human health (Reuters).

10.59pm NHK World is reporting the toll from the disaster has risen to more than 3000 confirmed deaths with more than 15,000 still unaccounted for.

10.27pm Telstra has announced all phone calls and text messages to Japan in the two weeks following the disaster will be free.

10.14pm Reuter’s Twitter account has a report on the damage at the No. 4 reactor.

@Reuters: Japan nuclear safety agency: Two 8-metre holes in wall of Fukushima No.4 outer building after blast.

10.10pm Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced Germany will temporarily shutdown seven nuclear reactors after safety fears sparked by the atomic crisis in Japan (BBC). Her move comes as Russian PM Vladimir Putin orders a full review of Russia’s atomic energy sector.

9.37pm Kyodo news agency has reported Japan’s PM is angry at Tokyo Electric’s handling of the nuclear crisis demanding to know “what the hell is going on?”

”The TV reported an explosion. But nothing was said to the premier’s office for about an hour,” a Kyodo News reporter overheard Kan saying during a meeting with executives of the power company at its head office. ”What the hell is going on?”

Kan strongly ordered the company not to withdraw its employees from the power plant, which has been facing a series of problems since Friday’s massive quake, ranging from explosions to radiation leaks.

”In the event of withdrawal from there, I’m 100 percent certain that the company will collapse,” Kan said. ”I want you all to be determined.”

9.32pm This article from the Daily Mail online has a chilling photo comparison of Hiroshima’s destruction in 1945 and the damage seen there today.

9.30pm More terrible images out of Japan.

A girl stands amid the debris at the tsunami-hit area in Ofunato, Iwate. Picture: AP

Japan

Rescuers search for survivors through rubble of destroyed buildings in Miyagi. Picture: Getty Images

Japan

9.24pm Reuters is reporting TEPCO says its next rollover blackout is expected to affect 5 million households. This is significantly up from the 113,000 households affected yesterday (Reuters).

9.05pm Kyodo news agency is providing this status report on the quake-stricken reactors at Fukushima nuclear power plant.

  • Reactor No. 1 – Cooling failure, partial melting of core, hydrogen explosion, seawater pumped in.
  • Reactor No. 2 – Cooling failure, seawater pumped in, fuel rods fully exposed temporarily, partial melting of core, damage to containment system.
  • Reactor No. 3 – Cooling failure, partial melting of core, seawater pumped in, hydrogen explosion.
  • Reactor No. 4 – Under maintenance when quake struck, fire caused by hydrogen explosion at pool holding spent fuel rods, pool water levels feared receding.
  • Reactor No. 5 – Under maintenance when quake struck.
  • Reactor No. 6 – Under maintenance when quake struck.

8.51pm An Aussie mum has finally spoken with her son, who was in one of Japan’s worst hit regions during the earthquake and tsunami. Mary Briffa broke down in tears when she finally heard the voice of her son Jason who was was working as an English teacher in Sendai when it was ravaged by a 10m tsunami on Friday.

“I couldn’t help but cry. It was just so overwhelming, so exciting. I got to hear his voice.”

“He could try his best to get out of there but instead he is staying around to give them a hand.”

8.48pm Twitter users are urging chief government spokesman Yukio Edano, the right-hand man of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, to go to sleep amid fears he will collapse from lack of rest. The hashtag “edano_nero” is trending on the popular micro-blogging site – “nero” means “go to sleep” in Japanese. Edano emerged as an unlikely hero of the crisis, appearing every few hours on TV in a blue emergency jumpsuit to update the nation (AFP).

One user named Kagetoramaru tweeted yesterday: “As of 20.30 let’s all tweet edano_nero, and make him go to sleep!”

8.44pm Radiation levels in Chiba prefecture – which neighbours Tokyo – are now more than 10 times above normal levels, Kyodo News reported.

8.28pm Another survivor, a male, has reportedly been found in Japan quake rubble, NHK is reporting.

8.15pm Tokyo officials say the level of radiation in Tokyo has dropped after its spike earlier today.

“We monitored a higher than normal amount of radiation in the morning in Tokyo. But we don’t consider it to be at a level where the human body is affected,” – Sairi Koga, an official of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

“It is returning closer to the normal level. But we need to keep a close watch on it,” – health and welfare official Keiichi Nakaya.

Rubble of destroyed buildings and vehicles are seen in Miyagi, Japan. Picture: Getty Images

Japan quake

8.10pm France’s foreign minister says the danger from the damaged nuclear reactor is “extremely high”.

“The situation is extremely serious…. The risk is extremely high,” - Minister Alain Juppe.
“It is up to the Japanese to say how we can help them.”

Mr Juppe said that French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants the G20 grouping of big economies “to be at Japan’s service” during the crisis.

8.09pm Police say the official death toll has now risen to 2414, but is feared to reach as high as 10,000.

7.57pm Some good news from amid the wreckage. A Japanese official says rescuers have pulled a 70-year-old woman who has been trapped in the rubble for four days (AP).

7.43pm Kyodo news is reporting Fukushima’s spent nuclear fuel pool may be boiling, reducing the water level in the reactor.

7.33pm Sky News is reporting Japan’s PM has said the radiation spewing from the nuclear plant at Fukushima are extremely dangerous as AFP quotes a government spokesperson as saying the levels have dropped considerably.

7.21pm Australian experts have urged calm over Japan’s nuclear crisis, saying none of the protected nuclear cores within the damaged plants appear to have been breached and references to the meltdown being like “Chernobyl” were unhelpful.

“What’s the worst consequence that could happen? Well, my view is that words like meltdown are not helpful,” – John Price, a former member of the safety policy unit of the UK’s National Nuclear Corporation.

“Once the shutdown occurred, even on the first day, we were really not talking about meltdown … what we’re talking about is overheating and damage of the cladding of the core.”

7.08pm More detail about the 149 Australians unaccounted for in Japan.

6.49pm Tokyo’s outspoken conservative governor Shintaro Ishihara has apologised for describing Japan’s deadly earthquake and tsunami as “divine punishment.”

“[The remarks] hurt victims, Tokyo residents and victims,” Mr Ishihara said “I deeply apologise.”

His remarks come after one of the writers for the US animated comedy Family Guy apologised for a joke linking the disaster to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour. In a message on Twitter scriptwriter Alec Sulkin wrote:

“If you wanna feel better about this earthquake in Japan, google ‘Pearl Harbor (sic) death toll.”

He later apologised.

“Yesterday death toll – 200. Today – 10,000. I am sorry for my insensitive tweet. It’s gone.”

6.46pm Reuters is reporting Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano has told reporters:

Radiation levels at the Fukushima Daiichi complex have fallen dramatically to 596.4 microsieverts per hour. That level is almost 700 times less than the levels reported in the morning, after two fresh blasts at the complex.

6.45pm Consular officials remain concerned for the safety of 149 Australians with whom no contact has been made since the earthquake struck. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it has not yet made contact with 149 Australians who were in the hardest hit areas.

DFAT said it was boosting its consular search team on the ground in Japan by an extra three staff, who will focus on the devastated Sendai area.

6.30pm Aussie dollar and shares plummet as the tragedy in Japan impacts on our markets. The share market dropped to a six-month low today, suffering its worst one-day fall in nine months as the dollar dropped by an entire US cent.

5.31pm A few images of tributes and memorials across the world today:

Filipinos offer flowers to express sympathies to Japanese earthquake victims during a prayer meeting in front of the Japanese embassy in Pasay city, south of Manila. Picture: AAP

flowers philippines japan

A Greenpeace activist lights candles to form the nuclear symbol in front of the chancellery in Berlin. Picture: AFP

berlin candles japan

Students in Allahabad, India, burn candles to pray for the victims of the Japanese disaster. Picture: AP

india candles japan

5.25pm The horrific pictures from Japan and its unfolding nuclear disaster will probably give the Reserve Bank of Australia further reasons to leave interest rates unchanged for some months, economists predict.

5.14pm Tokyo shares have closed down 10.55 per cent as panicking investors dumped stocks after the government said rising radiation levels at a stricken nuclear plant posed a threat to health.

4.54pm Radiation levels near a quake-hit nuclear plant are now harmful to human health, Japan’s government said.

The crisis at the Fukushima No.1 plant, 250 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, has now spread to four out of its six reactors.

“There is no doubt that unlike in the past, the figures are the level at which human health can be affected,” said chief government spokesman Yukio Edano. -AFP

4.44pm Kyodo News reports the National Police Agency as saying 2,475 people are confirmed dead, with 3,611 missing, but says many unidentified bodies have been detected in coastal areas.

The agency has identified 1,060 bodies so far, of which 420 have been returned to their families.

Local authorities say around 1300 people have been found stranded on the island of Oshima in the Miyagi Prefecture.

4.39pm NHK has reported the official death toll as 2476, with 17,000 missing. (Via Twitter)

4.14pm The Financial Times reports Shan Nair, a former nuclear physicist who advised the European Commission on its response to the Chernobyl disaster, as saying “It’s a bad accident but it’s not a Chernobyl,” but he warned the situation was still extremely serious.

This viewpoint is echoed by Peter Burns, former CEO of ARPANSA, who estimates the radioactivity released by Fukushima is millions of times lower than that released at Chernobyl.

4.12pm Japan’s transport minister says the country can build 30,000 temporary houses within two months to house people affected by the earthquake and tsunami, according to Bloomberg.

4.07pm A useful graphic which puts the radiation levels at Fukushima into perspective. (via Twitter)

3.55pm The releases from the Fukushima reactor have been of a moderate nature, but until we know what materials are being released and at what levels, statements such as “nine times above normal” are not very useful, says Peter Burns, former CEO of Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA)

3.48pm A simple explanation of the Fukushima nuclear accident.

3.34pm Local media reports are saying the fire at Fukushima reactor number 4 has been put out.

3.30pm The Nikkei is in freefall amid nuclear fears, with the stock index plunging 13%.

3.16pm Higher than normal radiation levels have reportedly been detected in Tokyo but the government says they’re not high enough to affect human health.

NHK reports white iodine and cesium has been detected, but no rising sievert levels. (Via Twitter)

2.55pm Japan nuclear safety agency says the fire has been extinguished at 4th reactor.

2.51pm Clive Cookson explains to the Financial Times the worst-case scenario:

Catastrophic meltdown

John Gittus, a nuclear risk expert at Swansea University in Wales, estimated that there was a 1 per cent chance of a radiological disaster similar to Chernobyl occurring at the Fukushima Number 2 reactor, where the fuel rods have been left exposed despite the operators’ efforts to pump in enough sea water to cover them.

Professor Gittus said that in the worst case the fuel rods in the core would melt, fracturing the reactor’s pressure vessel and then breaking the concrete and steel containment around it. That could release large amounts of radioactive material into the environment.

“The likelihood of that happening is about one in a hundred,” he said. “But if it does happen, the most likely consequence would be a few dozen people dying of radiation poisoning and a large area of land contaminated.”

2.50pm Nikkei reporting that 9700 missing people in Minamisanriku have been accounted for. (via Twitter)

2.44pm Kyodo News: Small amounts of radioactive material detected in Tokyo (Philadelphia Enquirer)

2.30pm French Embassy says low-level radioactive wind from the nuclear reactor in could reach Tokyo within 10 hours. (CBS)

2.14pm The wind over the radiation-leaking nuclear plant in northern Japan will blow inland from the north-east and later from the east today, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, according to Reuters. Harmful radiation can spread via wind and rain.

2.09pm How many nuclear power plants have had accidents and incidents? Get the full list and find out how they’re ranked. See a full screen map here.

2pm Towns evacuated. Official: Anyone within 20km of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant evacuated; within 20-30km told to stay indoors. (CNN) List of towns evacuated here. (TimeOut Tokyo)

1.50pm Radiation is spewing from damaged reactors. The Prime Minister has warned residents to stay inside or risk getting radiation sickness from the particles in the smoke rising from the reactor. A government spokesman says radiation emanating from the plant is high enough in nearby areas to damage health.

1.25pm Update on the fire at No.4: some reports saying there are no active fuel rods in that building.

1.18pm The Nikkei index plunged again on opening this morning, losing about 7 per cent in early training. You can check out the market latest at the Nikkei’s English-language site.

1.16pm PHOTO update: A one-year-old boy is re-checked for radiation exposure after being decontaminated in Nihonmatsu, in Fukushima prefecture. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

1.11pm BULLETIN: Reactor operator confirms fire near reactor building of Daiichi No.4 unit. (Reuters)

1.03pm Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan is holding a news conference. He has personally taken control of the operation at Fukushima. He is asking for a total evacuation of a 20km radius from the No.1 plant and also a 10km radius from the No.2 plant.

He says the engineers working to get water into the reactors to cool them are putting themselves in a “very dangerous situation” and they will be working to avoid any further explosions at the plant. He appealed to the people of Japan to remain calm.

12.26pm Two perspectives on the worst-case scenarios at Fukushima from prominent scientists at America’s ABC News.

Q. What is worst-case scenario in Japan?

[JOSEPH] CIRINCIONE: The worst case is multiple reactor meltdowns. That means that the reactor core, the fuel, gets so hot that it fuses together into molten lava and that bursts right through the reactor container vessel, and right through the concrete containment box that is built around the reactor. Then radioactivity goes in the air, in the ground, in the water. It is a mess.

The danger is that it happens, not just at one reactor but two or three reactors at once. That means you have an arch of radioactivity over hundreds of squared kilometers contaminating, perhaps, possible thousands of square kilometers.

[MICHIO] KAKU: The worst-case scenario is a steam/hydrogen gas explosion which blows the reactor vessels apart, sending uranium dioxide fuel rods and radioactive debris into the air. This might happen if the core is fully exposed for a few hours, which is a distinct possibility. This is what happened at Chernobyl, when such an explosion blew about 25 percent of the core’s radioactive byproducts into the air.

Read on here.

Dr Kaku also has a blog post at BigThink.com which has provoked an angry reaction from some scientists for being alarmist in the comments.

12.15pm More on the nuclear crisis: The company that owns the plant says a “meltdown” is possible. (The term is used because it describes the nuclear fuel heating up to the point where it melts because the cooling system has failed. However the amount of radiation that such an event would release is unknown. But it’s not a good thing.)

Also, the Bank of Japan has pumped 5 trillion yen into Japan’s money markets to maintain liquidity.

12.13pm An odd statement being reported, attributed to the Tokyo mayor. @Matt_Alt on Twitter, who has been live-tweeting press conferences, says:

Tokyo mayor Ishihara alleges tsunami is “heavenly retribution for Japan’s greed.”

11.59am To visualise what is currently happening at Fukushima, here’s a photo of the facility. To the far left is the No.1 reactor, where the casing was blown off the building in the first explosion. The other building with its roof missing is the No.3 reactor. This was blown off in the second hydrogen explosion.

JAPAN-QUAKE-NUCLEAR-BLAST

These explosions blew apart the buildings but not the reactors themselves, which are encased in concrete inside each building.

Today’s explosion was in the building second from left, the No.2 reactor.

And just in: the company that runs the facility says the seal around the reactor does not appear to have been damaged. This follows earlier fears – see below – that there was damage to the “suppression pool” at the bottom of the reactor.

11.31am There is an increasing view that we are watching the second-worst nuclear accident in history, after Chernobyl. The UK Telegraph says today the third blast raises the spectre of a nuclear nightmare.  An excerpt from that story:

The Fukushima crisis now rates as a more serious accident than the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in the US in 1979, and is second only to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, according to the French nuclear safety authority. After insisting for three days that the situation was under control, Japan urgently appealed to US and UN nuclear experts for technical help on preventing white-hot fuel rods melting.

You can read on here.

And this just in: the radiation level at Fukushima rose to 8217 micro sievert per hour for a short period this morning. This is more than eight times the 1000 micro sievert level to which people are normally exposed in a year.

As a result, people in the surrounding area will likely suffer radiation sickness, and there have been reports that the people working at the plant to try and solve the problem of the exposed rods have been showing symptoms. The main risk with radiation sickness is infections because the body has trouble fighting off germs, and longer term there is a greatly increased risk of developing various cancers. Many people who get radiation sickness can survive, however.

11.27am Reporter Martyn Williams in Tokyo tweets:

Tepco erred by starting with apology – making it seem big increase in seriousness – then unable to follow with simple explanation

11.12am Japan Times has detailed explanation of the latest crisis at the Fukushima No.1 plant. The alarming quotes are below:

Fears of the worst-case scenario — a total core meltdown — are increasing because the No. 2 reactor’s self-cooling system failed and sea water was being pumped in from outside.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that the No. 3 reactor’s containment vessel survived the explosion, just like the one at the No. 1 reactor, which blew up its housing on Saturday.

10.51am This morning’s explosion at the number two reactor of Fukushima nuclear power plant has been described as “huge” by a spokesman for the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

10.34am Japan’s Kyodo News is reporting higher radiation levels have been measured in Ibaraki, which is between the Fukushima plant and Tokyo.

10.19am The situation at Fukushima is developing very quickly and it looks grim. The explosion was heard at Unit 2 at 8.10am AEDT. This is different to the two reactor buildings which have been through hydrogen explosions.

Not long before today’s blast authorities reported apparent damage on the suppression pool – the bottom part of the container which houses the water to keep the fuel rods from overheating and triggering events which would release large amounts of radiation.

Stand by, we will have more information as it becomes available.

To understand what happens in a meltdown, see our Q&A on Japan’s nuclear emergency and this piece from the New York Times on the mechanics of a partial meltdown.

But in short if the water can’t be kept inside the container, that’s a problem.

10.13am The Japanese nuclear safety agency says an explosion has been heard at Unit 2 of Fukushima nuclear plant.

10.05am Government says an explosion has been heard at another nuclear reactor, according to Japanese media reports.

9.49am Part of the container of a troubled nuclear reactor appears to be damaged, the Japanese government says, indicating possible serious radiation leaks. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said “damage appears on the suppression pool” – the bottom part of the container, which contains water used to cool down the reactor and control air pressure inside.

9.44am The Science Media Centre of Japan is using a number of experts to answer questions on radiation exposure and nuclear power. Follow the Q&A here

9.16am The US Geological Survey has updated the magnitude of Friday’s earthquake to 9.0, and says Japanese seismologists have independently done the same – making it the fourth largest quake in the world since 1900.

9.05am Fox News answers the question: What is a nuclear meltdown? Watch the video

9.01am Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan says his government is setting up a joint response headquarters with Tokyo Electric Power to better manage the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant and he will personally lead operations at the HQ.

8.55am Kevin Rudd says people should not be alarmed by the gap between the number of Australians – 3342 – registered as being in Japan at the time of last Friday’s devastating earthquake and tsunami and the 2610 confirmed as safe.

“It’s simply a methodical process we go through to reduce this down one by one and it takes time,” he said.

8.14am DFAT information on Australians involved in the Japan disaster as at 5am (AEDT):

Number of calls received in Canberra: 7653; Australians in Japan confirmed as safe: 2610; Number registered in Japan: 3342; Number registered in affected areas: 306; Number safe in affected areas: 128.

7.38am BBC Environment correspondent Richard Black explains the latest nuclear threat:

The fuel rod exposure at Fukushima Daiichi number 2 reactor is potentially the most serious event so far at the plant. Without coolant around the rods, temperatures can rise to levels hot enough to melt metallic components over a prolonged period.

This opens the possibility of a serious meltdown – where molten, highly radioactive material from the reactor core falls through the floor of the containment vessel and into the ground underneath.

7.38am Engineers are battling to cool the No.2 reactor at Fkushima Plant after operator TEPCO said fuel rods were “fully exposed”. TEPCO said that, at its highest level, the hourly radiation inside the plant reached 3130 microsievert – six times the level at which nuclear power operators are obliged to declare an “alert” – but that was reduced this morning.

7.07am European Union asks the International Atomic Energy Agency to convene an extraordinary meeting of IAEA members in Vienna next week to discuss Japan’s nuclear accident and “organise a co-ordinated response and initiate a reflection on the possible implications for nuclear safety”.

6.54am As Japan and the world struggle to comprehend the human cost of the double disaster, a poignant image from AP shows a family picture lying among the rubble in Higashimatsushima, Miyagi Prefecture:

Family photo

6.40am The Fukushima nuclear accident is “worse than Three Mile Island but not as great as Chernobyl“, says Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of France’s safety agency, who has spoken to “Japanese counterparts”.

The 1979 accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania rates five on an international scale of zero to seven, while Chernobyl is put at seven, the highest. Japan’s nuclear safety agency has estimated the accident at Fukushima at level four.

5.55am The European Union has convened emergency talks of energy ministers, national nuclear safety officials and big nuclear companies to review safety. France has 19 nuclear plants and 58 reactors, Britain has nine plants and 19 reactors, Germany 12 and 17, Sweden 7 and 16, Spain 6 and 9, Belgium 2 and 7, Finland 4, Hungary 4, Bulgaria 2, Greece 1, Lithuania 1, Netherlands 2, Romania 2, Slovakia 4, Slovenia 1 and Czech Republic 6.

5.48am Julia Gillard has said the situation in Japan is “pretty grim” and the next 24 hours will prove critical.

“It’s a tough situation, but having said that the Japanese have had nuclear power for a long time, they’ve got great experts and great engineers. Everything that can be done is being done.”

5.29am DFAT figures relating to Australian involvement in the Japanese disaster, as at 10pm (AEDT) last night: Number of calls received in Canberra: 7585; Australians in Japan confirmed as safe: 2553; Number registered in Japan: 3160; Number registered in affected areas: 277; Number safe in affected areas: 121.

5.19am Fuel rods in the number two reactor at a quake-damaged nuclear power plant in Japan are “fully exposed”. Air pressure inside the reactor at the Fukushima No.1 plant rose suddenly when the air flow gauge was accidentally turned off, operator TEPCO said. That blocked the flow of cooling water into the reactor, leading to full exposure of the rods at 1am (AEDT) today, TEPCO said.

2.18am Japanese officials say that nuclear fuel rods appear to be melting inside all three nuclear reactors. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said: “Although we cannot directly check it, it’s highly likely happening.” Some experts would consider that a partial meltdown of the reactor. Others, though, reserve that term for times when nuclear fuel melts through a reactor’s innermost chamber but not through the outer containment shell.

2.11am US President Barack Obama reiterated the US’s offer of assistance to Japan saying he was “heartbroken” by the scenes of devastation emerging from the area.

“We will stand with Japan in the difficult days ahead,” US President Barack Obama

2.07am Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he considered it his country’s “moral responsibility” to help Japan and ordered the government to increase energy supplies to the country. Russia said yesterday that it was ready to divert some 6000 megawatts of electricity from its operations to help Japan deal with their power shortfall.

Video from Russia Today showing the tsunami crushing a town.

1.36am The BBC is reporting one of the engineers who helped to design the reactor core Masashi Goto has said the design was not enough to withstand earthquakes or tsunamis and the plant’s builders, Toshiba, knew this.

Mr Goto says his greatest fear is that blasts at number 3 and number 1 reactors may have damaged the steel casing of the containment vessel … he said that as the reactor uses mox (mixed oxide) fuel, the melting point is lower than that of conventional fuel. Should a meltdown and an explosion occur, he says, plutonium could be spread over an area up to twice as far as estimated for a conventional nuclear fuel explosion.

A man comforts a woman as she cries in front of her damaged home in the town of Watari in Miyagi. Picture: AFP

JAPAN-QUAKE

1.04am The Japanese government has issues a dire warning about the three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. Chief government spokesman Yukio Edano said a meltdown was “highly likely” at three of the plant’s nuclear reactors according to the Kyodo News agency.

12.40pm Authorities are working to restore 4 million kW of thermal power soon, with 2.5 million kW to come back online within a week. This comes after rolling blackouts affected 113,000 households yesterday. (Reuters)

12.35pm Figures released from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade show there are 607 Australians unaccounted for with 156 of those from earthquake or tsunami affected areas.

12.14pm The Courier-Mail has this uplifting story of a baby girl pulled from the rubble at Miyagi where 10,000 are feared dead.

A Japan Self-Defense Force cradles the four-month-old in Ishinomaki. Picture: AP

quakebaby

11.54pm Conflicting reports of the situation at Fukushima Daiichi’s Number 2 reactor. Reuters are reporting the level of seawater has risen and the fuel rods are only half exposed while the Guardian are reporting NHK World are saying a “a core meltdown might have occurred”.

11.51pm This video from Reuters explains why the previous explosions took place at the Fukushima nuclear plant. click here

11.43pm Kyodo news agency is reporting fears that the core of the Number 2 reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant may have begun to melt due to overheating, sparking fears of a possible meltdown. Tepco says it is pumping seawater in to cool the exposed rods. It is feared the reactor will follow the same path as No. 1 and No. 3 reactors which suffered explosions during similar cooling efforts. Tepco has stated it will look into opening a hole in the wall of the building that houses the reactor to release hydrogen.

11.15pm Reuters is reporting plant owner and operator Tepco say parts of the exposed fuel rods at Reactor Number 2 have been damaged.

A car leans against a wire from an electric pole in Miyako, northeastern Japan. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

11.04pm Fearing the possible risk of contamination from the nuclear emergency foreigners have begun a slow exodus from Tokyo. Several European nations have advised their citizens to leave the city including France, which warned nationals if the reactor were to explode radioactive steam could reach the city in a “matter of hours”.

The foundations of tsunami devastated houses sit amongst debris in Natori City, Miyagi. Picture: AFP

Japan Earthquake

10.50pm Kyodo news agency is reporting millions of people in Japan have spent three nights without food, water and heat in freezing weather while more than 500,000 are displaced by the quake, tsunami and nuclear emergencies.

10.47pm The New York Daily News is reporting radioactive contamination has been found on 17 US Navy crewmembers who were assisting with rescue efforts in Japan. The US 7th fleet moved its ships further away to respond to the threat from “airborne radioactivity” but stressed it was only a precautionary measure.

10.19pm Kyodo news agency is reporting the fuel rods in the Number 2 reactor are now fully exposed.

10.14pm Reuters are reporting water levels at Fukushima Daiichi’s Number 2 reactor are nearly empty.

Jiji is reporting that the fuel rods have been left fully exposed at the comlpex’s number 2 reactor as levels of water coolant have fallen.

If the fuel rods were to melt down, the risk of damage to the reactor vessel would be greater, increasing the risk of a radioactive leak.

9.47pm India has announced a review of all of their nuclear facilities in light of the ongoing crisis in Japan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced today atomic energy authorities and the state-run company that operates Indian nuclear plants have been ordered to check the safety features of the installations (AP).

9.41pm The International Atomic Energy Agency has set up a Facebook  page with information updates about Japan’s nuclear reactors.

9.18pm Reactor 2 at the Fukushima nuclear plant has lost all its cooling capability. NHK World is reporting a second emergency notice for the reactor.

The utility firm told the agency shortly after the quake on Friday that the reactor’s emergency cooling power system had failed.

Since then, the company tried to cool the reactor by circulating water by steam power, instead of electricity. But an attempt to lower the temperature inside the vessel that houses the reactor did not work well.

Fears of a hydrogen explosion at the vessel housing building are growing as the water level of the reactor is falling. A reaction with the steam and exposed fuel rods generates a large amount of hydrogen.

This picture shows rescue workers look for the missing amid mud and debris in Sendai, Miyagi. Picture: AFP

JAPAN-QUAKE

9.07pm Tokyo Electric Power has begun a power outage in an area covering some parts of Tokyo and eight prefectures, affecting around 333,000 households. Authorities have announced plans for scheduled rolling power cuts in areas served by TEPCO to make up for the loss of power from crippled nuclear plants, including the Tokyo utility’s troubled Fukushima Number One facility.

This aerial shot shows a pleasure boat sitting on top of a building amid a sea of debris in Otsuchi town in Iwate prefecture. Picture: AFP

JAPAN-QUAKE

8.23pm For anyone interested in the tectonic plates which cause earthquakes this is a link to a map showing their global location.

8.17pm The BBC is reporting ongoing aftershocks in Japan which are spreading continuing panic. This is the IRIS seismic monitor, click on the Pacific region to see data from Japan.

8.16pm The International Skating Union has postponed the world figure skating championships which had been scheduled to start next week in Japan (AP).

8.07pm Japan’s nuclear safety agency has said there is “no possibility” of a Chernobyl-style disaster at the Fukushima number one plant, (AFP) national strategy minister Koichiro Genba said, as quoted by Jiji Press.

7.45pm Australian man Jason Briffa, 25, has been found alive and well, the ABC reported. Mr Briffa was teaching English in Miyagi prefecture which bore the brunt of the deadly tsunami on Friday. Mr Briffa called his mother after the earthquake struck to reassure her he was OK, but the region was then hit by the tsunami and contact was lost.

The picture below shows coastal city Miyako as the tsunami hits. Picture: AP

Miyako

7.23pm As government officials begin to dig for bodies and the death toll continues to rise the Associated Press describes the reality for Japanese struggling to survive in the aftermath.

At least 1.4 million households had gone without water since the quake struck and some 1.9 million households were without electricity. According to public broadcaster NHK, some 310,000 people are living in emergency shelters or with relatives. Another 24,000 people are stranded.

“People are surviving on little food and water. Things are simply not coming,” said Hajime Sato, a government official in Iwate prefecture, one of the three hardest hit.

He said authorities were receiving just 10 percent of the food and other supplies they need. Even body bags and coffins are running so short the government may turn to foreign funeral homes for help, he said.

“We have requested funeral homes across the nation to send us many body bags and coffins. But we simply don’t have enough.”

“I never imagined we would be in such a situation” Hajime Watanabe, 38, a construction industry worker, said.

“I had a good life before. Now we have nothing. No gas, no electricity, no water.”

He said he was surviving with his family on 60 half-liter bottles of water his wife had stored in case of emergencies like this. He walked two hours to find a convenience store that was open and waited in line to buy dried ramen noodles.

7.13pm This computer animation shows the tsunami as it spread throughout the Pacific.

7.04pm Technology giants Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are all offering digital ways to donate to Japan’s recovery efforts. Apple users can donate through iTunes while the Red Cross has launched a campaign on Facebook through its Causes function. Twitter is continually updating and refreshing information and advice as well as directing people to resources on the ground and offering ways to donate. Google’s Crisis Response page offers people a way to help survivors on the ground as well as offering resources to find information.

6.50pm Nuclear experts say even a highly unlikely Chernobyl-like disaster in Japan would have no impact on Australia. Associate Professor Reza Hashemi-Nezhad says Australia’s too far away for the radioactive material released in such an event to pose a local health risk. He also says ongoing monitoring of atmospheric radioactivity levels in Australia had shown no change since Japan’s nuclear crisis began unfolding late on Friday.

6.38pm The Japanese government says 11 people were injured during the explosion at the Fukushima Number 3 reactor. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said four army personnel and seven nuclear power plant workers were hurt (AP).

6.32pm This first person video from Gizmodo shows the terrifying power of the tsunami as cars, trucks and eventually whole buildings are tossed aside by a wall of water.

6.26pm As engineers battle to stabilise two reactors at the plant this graphic explains what happens during a nuclear meltdown.

Nuclear power plant  meltdown

6.03pm Tokyo shares have plummeted more than six per cent as investors reacted to the earthquake (AFP).

5.59pm Incredible before and after images from the news.com.au team. This image taken on April 4, 2010 shows an area of Ishinomaki, Japan. The same image released by GeoEye on March 12 shows a devastated Ishinomaki and the full horror left behind by the disasters /AP Photo/GeoEye

Ishinomaki Before

Before

Ishinomaki

After
.

5.51pm The graphic below shows the huge cost of the earthquake -

the worst crisis to hit the country since the end of World War II.

Disaster infographic

5.41pm Reports are now coming in that water levels are falling and cooling functions have stopped at Reactor 2 at the Fukushima 1 nuclear plant (BBC).

5.10pm Japan’s Chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano said there had been no change in radioactivity levels around Fukushima nuclear plant, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile Sky News was reporting that Japanese authorities were confident the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has withstood the latest blast.

4.36pm A US aircraft carrier has passed through a radioactive cloud emitted from Japan’s nuclear reactors, with crew members reportedly receiving a month’s full of radiation, but have felt no ill-effects, according to the The New York Times.

4.26pm A Malaysian newspaper has apologised for printing a caricature of Japanese cartoon superhero Ultraman comically trying to outrun a tsunami, saying it had “no intention of poking fun” at the disaster.

4.01pm Singapore is testing food flown in from Japan for radiation as another explosion rocked an earthquake-hit atomic plant and raised fears of a radioactive catastrophe.

“As a precautionary measure, AVA (the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore) will monitor Japanese produce based on source and potential risk of contamination,” the food regulator said in a statement.

“Samples will be taken for testing for radiation. Fresh produce will have priority. AVA will continue to closely monitor the situation and its developments.”

2.56pm Plans for rolling black-outs across parts of Tokyo and surrounds are on hold for now, says Chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano.

Instead, Tokyo Electric Power is asking everyone to ration their electricity use, but they will go ahead with the power cuts if that does not prove sufficient.

2.35pm The two emergencies of a second tsunami and an explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have both been downgraded.

The tsunami warning was cancelled and Meteorology authorities confirm that no tremor or earthquake has been detected that could trigger a tsunami.

The hydrogen explosion at the already damaged nuclear plant did not compromise the reactor’s inner containment vessel which holds the nuclear rods.

CNN reports six people were injured in the blast. Seven people earlier reported as missing have been accounted for, a company official said.

2.05pm There are serious concerns of a complete nuclear meltdown after the explosion in the Fukushima Number 3 reactor.

It is feared around 160 people may have been exposed to radiation.

1.56pm 2000 bodies have been found on the shores of the Miyagi prefecture. 1000 washed ashore at Miyagi’s Ojika Peninsula, and another 1000 were seen at the town of Minamisanriku, where over 10,000 were earlier reported missing.

1.55pm The tsunami warning in the Soma region has been cancelled after sirens and warning signals went off a short time ago. The Japan Bureau of Meteorology says no tsunami has been detected.

1.54pm 600 residents within 20km of the nuclear plant have been ordered to stay indoors.

1.44pm Authorities say the container within the Fukushima reactor has not been breached by the hydrogen explosion reported earlier. Chief government spokesman Yukio Edano said the reactor container was likely undamaged and there was a low possibility of major radiation.

Dramatic footage of the explosion, which occurred approximately 40 minutes ago, has emerged.

1.31pm Confusing messages coming in on the latest tsunami warning. Authorities say there has been no sign of another tsunami as yet, but sea levels were seen dropping at Iwate and a 3m wave was spotted off the coast by a news helicopter. People are continuing to evacuate to higher ground.

1.24pm There are reports of an explosion at the number three reactor in Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Some information available says it was a hydrogen explosion, but there are no further details as yet. White smoke rising from the building is visible.

1.22pm Sky News is reporting 1300 homes have been advised to evacuate after a five metre change is sea level.

1.20pm A tsunami is expected to hit northeast Japan coast in 10 minutes.

Jiji news agency reports a helicopter has seen a tsunami off the coast of Japan, estimated at three metres in size.

The wave was spotted from a fire department helicopter off Fukushima prefecture, TV reports say, while public broadcaster NHK said around 11.20am (1.20pm AEDT) that it was expected to reach the coast within 15 minutes.

The sea was seen retreating off Iwate prefecture in the northeast of Honshu island, a phenomenon that occurs before the massive waves hit.

1.14pm An offshore quake has struck 140 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, shaking tall buildings in Tokyo.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The quake off coastal Ibaraki prefecture – one of many aftershocks since Friday’s massive 8.9 quake – had a 5.8-magnitude, said the US Geological Survey, which said the quake struck at a depth of 18 kilometres.

12:41pm Some science-related links for those interested in delving into the details behind the earthquake, the tsunami and its impact upon the nuclear reactors.

Updates seismological information from the United States Geological Survey

Updates on Fukushima nuclear reactor at The International Atomic Energy Agency

More nuclear reactor information at The World Nuclear Association

12:30pm Moving photo of a woman reacting amidst debris caused by the massive earthquake and the ensuing tsunami, in Natori, northern Japan / AP

Japan Earthquake

12:18pm A strong offshore earthquake has struck 150 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, shaking tall buildings in Japan’s capital, but authorities did not issue a tsunami alert, AFP reports. The new tremor was magnitude 6.2, according to Japanese monitors.

11:59am Grim cartoon from Cagle Cartoons on what comes next for Japan. (Click through to see the full picture)

japan cartoon

11:40am Update on the latest numbers of the Japan disaster:

- Expectations that at least 10,000 were killed in Miyagi, according to local police

- About 1800 people now confirmed dead, The Associated Press reports

- About 1900 injured and more than 500,000 people homeless, Kyodo News reported.

11:35am Japan’s Nikkei index has plunged a 5.1 per cent within minutes off the start of trade on the Tokyo Stock Exchange this morning, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

11:30am Infographic of Japan’s Quake-Damaged Nuclear Power Plants from http://www.livescience.com. (Click through for full version)

japan diagram

11:06am Professor Andrew O’Neil, director of the Griffith Asia Institute at Griffith University, tells news.com.au that the Japanese reconstruction effort will “have the effect of turning most Japanese further inwards”.

The unprecedented disaster in Japan poses significant threats to the long term viability of that country’s role in Asia. The massive human and economic costs to Japan resulting from the earthquake and tsunami damage will worsen an already precarious situation for state and society. And the superhuman reconstruction efforts required on the road to recovery will have the effect of turning most Japanese further inwards. This will mean a Japan that is less fully engaged in regional security, with attendant consequences for China’s position and the role of the US in Asia. Should the nuclear dimension of crisis worsen – and there is some reason to believe it will – the Japanese economy itself could be facing meltdown. This will have serious implications for Australia, a major security of Japan and a country that still relies on the Japanese market for the export of a large portion of its resources base.

10:47am Update on nuclear and electricity problems in Japan.

- Rolling power outages were due to start later today as the quake and tsunami crippled nuclear power plants in the northeast, AFP reports. Millions left without electricity after the disaster hit on Friday. Japan’s nuclear industry provides about a third of its power needs.

- After an explosion on Saturday, The New York Times reports that the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant (also known as Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant) is presumed to have had a partial nuclear meltdown. This morning, radiation levels at the plant again topped legal limits, Kyodo News network reported. Authorities are using seawater to try and cool down the plant.

- A cooling system pump had stopped at the Tokai Daini nuclear power plant but a back-up system was working, Kyodo News reports. Tokai suffered a nuclear accident in 1999.

- Japanese authorities say that the radioactivity levels Onagawa nuclear power plant have returned to normal, Reuters reports. Earlier, a state of emergency had been declared at the plant..

10:37am Reuters has an analysis on Japanese authorities using seawater to avoid nuclear catastrophe.

It is probably the first time in the industry’s 57-year history that seawater has been used in this way, a sign of how close Japan is to facing a major nuclear disaster following the massive earthquake and tsunami on Friday, according to the scientists.

10:25am Japan’s central bank is preparing to inject “massive liquidity” in response to the disaster, Bloomberg reports.

10:09am The Guardian has a powerful piece telling individual stories of loss from the Japan earthquake and tsunami.

Harumi Watanabe rushed home to her elderly parents as soon as the earthquake struck. “I closed my shop and drove as quickly as I could,” she said. But there wasn’t enough time to save them. “They were old and too weak to walk so I couldn’t get them in the car.”

9:45am More raw video footage, this clip showing the tsunami wave crashing over a sea wall and smashing boats and cars in the Japanese town of Miyako on Friday. The reaction of the crowd watching says it all. (Ad warning on AP YouTube clip)

9:30am Japanese authorities say that the radioactivity levels Onagawa nuclear power plant have returned to normal, Reuters reports.

9:20am

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said almost 900 Australians in Japan still need to be tracked down, with weary consular officials battling poor communications and the sheer extent of the devastation, AAP reports.

He added that the Government had no further information on the whereabouts in Japan of Melbourne man Jason Briffa.

But Mr Briffa’s aunt, Carmen Bonello, told ABC News that two different people have told the family that his name is on a list of survivors posted in Japan.

But Ms Bonella said she remained cautious: “Until you hear from the person, you don’t know.”

9:09am Video: Incredible CCTV footage of tsunami engulfing an airport in Japan. More video of the aftermath of the flooding.

8:52am Former chairman of the the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Dr Ziggy Switkowski, plays down impact of any nuclear meltdown in Japan in a radio interview with Fairfax.

The contribution, if any, to this (disaster) from the nuclear fleet, I expect even under worst case scenarios is going to be small,. That’s not to deny that people are always concerned and justly concerned about the integrity of the nuclear reactor network. The Japanese reactors are probably as good as you can find around the world, but this magnitude 9 earthquake may well have tested the limits of their design.

8:40am US nuclear officials say radiation from nuclear plants damaged in Japan’s earthquake is unlikely to reach US territory in harmful amounts. They say weather conditions have taken the small releases from the Fukushima reactors out to sea and Japan is thousands of kilometres away from the US.

8:29am The Guardian’s science correspondent, Ian Sample, explains the causes and the risks of Japan’s nuclear crisis. Yesterday, nuclear plant engineer John Price provided news.com.au a detailed explanation about nuclear fail-safes and how they work.

8:15am The best before-and-after satellite photos of the devastation caused by the earthquake from ABC News and The New York Times. A slider on the pictures allows the full impact of the damage to become clear.

8:00am NHK World reports the death toll now exceeds 1500, while police warn there may be at least 10,000 casualties in tsunami-hit Miyagi prefecture alone.

7:40am Satellite images from Japan showing the extent of the devastation by last week’s earthquake and tsunami.

Before and after images of the damaged Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant No. 1. Picture: AFP

Japan nuclear crisis

A satellite image shows the extent of the damage caused by the tsunami in Fukushima prefecture. Picture: AFP/DigitalGlobe

Japan quake

A satellite image shows shipping containers (in red) scattered around at the damaged port of Sendai. Picture: AFP/DigitalGlobe

Japan quake

A satellite image shows the extent of the damage caused by the tsunami to Japan’s coastline. Picture: AFP/DigitalGlobe

JAPAN-QUAKE

7:15am These images show the evacuation of patients from town of Futaba near the troubled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station and their treatment for possible radiation exposure. Pictures: AP, AFP

Japan Earthquake Nuclear Crisis
Japan Earthquake Nuclear Crisis

6:00am An overview of the growing nuclear crisis in Japan at four nuclear plants:

- After an explosion on Saturday, The New York Times reports that the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant is presumed to have had a partial nuclear meltdown. Authorities have confirmed that radiation has leaked from this plant.

- Fox News reports that Fukushima No. 2 plant could also be in trouble with temperatures in three of its four reactors getting extremely high.

- A cooling system pump had stopped at the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant but a back-up system was working, Kyodo News reports. Tokai suffered a nuclear accident in 1999.

- A state of emergency was declared at Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant after excessive radiation levels were recorded, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

4.35am Bloomberg reports

that insured losses from the earthquake and tsunami may reach US$34.2 billion ($34.12 billion), according to risk analysis firm AIR Worldwide.

2:30am A tale of survival, with a 60-year-old man plucked to safety 14km out to sea.

Hiromitsu Shinkawa, from the city of Minamisoma – a town virtually wiped from the map – was swept out along with his house after the massive tsunami tore into Japan’s northeast.

“I ran away after learning that the tsunami was coming,” Mr Shinkawa told rescuers, according to Jiji Press.

“But I turned back to pick up something at home, when I was washed away. I was rescued while I was hanging to the roof from my house.”

Sadly, Mr Shinkawa’s was swept away by the tsunami.

1.05 The nuclear fallout concerns spreads with news of a second state of emergency declared at the Japanese nuclear facility at Onagawa.

Excessive radiation levels were recorded there following Friday’s earthquake, the UN atomic watchdog said.

10.56 JAPAN faces a “70 per cent” possibility of a magnitude-7 aftershock following the massive earthquake that struck its north-east coast.

A government official today said the country faced a nervous wait.

“There is a 70 per cent possibility that an aftershock with a magnitude of seven or more will occur” within the next three days, Takashi Yokota, director of earthquake prediction and information at the Japan Meteorological Agency, said.

“The possibility is 50 per cent” during the three days from March 16, he added, pointing out that strong aftershocks have continued since Friday’s quake and tsunami.

A magnitude-7 quake is capable of destroying buildings and triggering tsunamis.

Japan tsunami

9.15pm The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has updated its advice on the situation of registered Australians in Japan.

As of 19:00 AEDT today, there were no known Australian casualties of Japan’s massive quake.

Grave fears are held for a Melbourne man, however, who is missing in Sendai, one of the worst-affected areas.

  • Number of calls received in Canberra: 6499
  • Australians in Japan confirmed as safe: 1675
  • Number registered in Japan: 2551
  • Number registered in affected areas: 223

Japanese authorities are urging anyone who lives within 20km of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Okumacho (270km north-east of Tokyo and 80km south of Sendai) to evacuate this area immediately as a precautionary measure.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency advises there is no immediate threat to the health of those outside the precautionary 20km evacuation zone.

Concerned friends and relatives of Australians residing in Japan should contact DFAT’s 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 135. If calling from overseas, the number is +61 2 6261 3305.

7.50pm Japan has asked Russia for more energy supplies as the earthquake-ravaged country is bracing for electricity shortages following the disaster, the Russian government has said.

7.45pm A doctor uses a giger counter to check the level of radiation on a woman while a soldier in gas mask looks on at a radiation treatment centre in Nihonmatsu city in Fukushima prefecture. Picture: AFP/ Yomiuri Shimbnun

JAPAN-QUAKE

7.37pm A Sydney man has spoken off his escape from the tsunami, while a Japanese man was found miraculously alive after being swept 15 km out to sea clutching a  piece of his roof.

7.20pm Patients lie on the floor at a hospital to wait rescue and transfer to other hospitals at Otsuchi town in Iwate prefecture. Picture: AFP / Yomiuri Shimbnun

JAPAN-QUAKE

6.50pm An Australian woman evacuated from near Japan’s stricken Fukushima reactor will be medically evaluated for radiation exposure when she returns home.

6.28pm Japan’s top government spokesman Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano has has warned of the risk of a second explosion at the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant, but said that reactor three could withstand it as reactor one did a day earlier.

There is the possibility of an explosion in the third reactor, as in the case of the first reactor.

6.12pm A Melbourne mother is hopeful her son will emerge from the devastation in Japan, despite not hearing from him since the giant wave swept through the town where he was working.

5.56pm Latest image from Fukushima where defence workers carry a resident believed to have been exposed to radiation. Picture courtesy of AP / Yomiuri Shimbun.

Radiation / AP

5.44pm Japan’s government has warned there is a risk of another explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

5.33pm Australian nuclear safety expert Dr John Price has written a special piece for news.com.au today on what workers will be doing to limit the damage at Japan’s Fukushima plant.

When the reactor shuts down it does not immediately produce zero power. The core has in it large quantities of radioactive products of the reaction, which still take time to decay. After shut down the power levels fall to a small proportion of what the power station was generating. The information I have seen suggests 7 per cent of the energy continues immediately after shut down and this drops to 2 per cent within an hour and 1 per cent within a day.

Check out Dr Price’s full piece here.

5.27pm As Japan’s nuclear emergency reignites our own nuclear debate, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says the explosion gave “cause for some pause and consideration” about using nuclear energy:

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the explosion in the nuclear power plant in Japan will be a great cause for caution before we see anybody jumping to invest in that sort of energy, particularly here in Australia.”

However, she said, now was not the right time for a full debate on the issue within the ALP or, more broadly, with the tragedy still unfolding.

5.22pm Latest scenes of the devastation – two days after the quake hit local residents return to the restricted area to look at their quake-damaged homes in Miyagi prefecture. PIcture: AFP

Miyagi prefecture

5.11pm The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has just released the latest figures on  Australians  affected by the quake. By the numbers – as of 4.49pm AEDT – they are:

  • Number of calls received in Canberra: 6196
  • Australians in Japan confirmed as safe: 1489
  • Number registered in Japan: 2431
  • Number registered in affected areas: 214

5.07pm Two days after the quake hit this fishing boat is still stranded in the middle of a street near the port in Hachinohe, Aomori prefecture. Picture: AFP

Boat

4.51pm US aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan has reached waters off the northeast coast of Japan to assist in relief efforts, Kyodo news reports. Here’s a picture of the vessel courtesy of the US Navy visual news service:

USS Ronald Reagan

4.43pm Below is an archival photo of the 1979 nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island in the US.

Three Mile Island

4.36pm Japan’s Meteorological Agency says it has upgraded the magnitude of Friday’s quake to 9.0. The US Geological Survey is still measuring it at magnitude 8.9.

3.52pm The New York Times has produced a detailed interactive graphic on the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear plant. It takes you through what happened step by step.

For those experiencing difficulties with the link above, cut and paste the URL below into a browser:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/12/world/asia/the-explosion-at-the-japanese-reactor.html

The site has also produced an interactive map of the places damaged by the quake and tsunami. Click here to see it. Or again, cut and paste this URL:

http://www.nytimes.com/packages/flash/newsgraphics/2011/0311-japan-earthquake-map/index.html

3.46pm The Guardian is reporting Japanese ministers ignored safety warnings over the nuclear plants:

The real embarrassment for the Japanese government is not so much the nature of the accident but the fact it was warned long ago about the risks it faced in building nuclear plants in areas of intense seismic activity. Several years ago, the seismologist Ishibashi Katsuhiko stated, specifically, that such an accident was highly likely to occur. Nuclear power plants in Japan have a “fundamental vulnerability” to major earthquakes, Katsuhiko said in 2007. The government, the power industry and the academic community had seriously underestimated the potential risks posed by major quakes

3.41pm Timeline from the BBC of how the nuclear emergency escalated at the Fukushima power station. Officials have ordered a 20km exclusion zone around the plant. Another piece here on the health effects of radiation exposure.

3.36pm Japan has committed 100,000 troops – or about 40 per cent of its armed forces – to relief efforts in the days to come.

3.33pm Japan’s top government spokesman Yukio Edano says that radioactive meltdowns may have happened in two reactors of the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant.

Asked in a press conference whether meltdowns had occurred, Mr Edano said:

“We are acting on the assumption that there is a high possibility that one has occurred (in the plant’s number one reactor. As for the number-three reactor, we are acting on the assumption that it is possible.”

3.24pm The operator of quake-hit Japanese nuclear reactors said the top of fuel rods were 3m above water, an indication of a possible meltdown, local Kyodo News service reports.

Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) warned that the number three reactor at Fukushima No. 1 plant was overheating and so much of the cooling water briefly evaporated that mixed oxide fuel rods were exposed to the air.

The TEPCO spokesman later told AFP the rods had been covered again.

3.12pm Local environmentalists are pointing to Japan’s nuclear emergency as showing how dangerous reactors can be. This statement from the Australian Conservation Foundation’s David Noonan:

“The terrible human cost of the earthquake in Japan is being made even worse by radiation escaping from damaged nuclear reactors. Nuclear is a high cost, high risk electricity option that has no place in a sustainable energy future.”

2.43pm A report in from AFP on reaction on the web to the Japanese earthquake. To be expected, videos of the wall of water rolling in have notched up millions of views on YouTube.

Google’s person finder service has also had more than 81,000 records of people leaving messages seeking information on friends and family by 2pm (AEDT) today.

The site is updating, in English and Japanese, by the hundreds every few minutes. Here is the English version.

2.15pm More than 200 bodies have been found at a new site in northeast Japan.

“We have received a preliminary report that more than 200 bodies were found in the city of Higashimatsushima,” a National Police Agency spokesman says.

1.46pm Stories of the ordeal from Australians arriving back home in Sydney. This from Jennifer Jones:

“I was in a workshop on the 29th floor of a hotel. The chandeliers started to shake and we ran down the hallway trying to get to the elevator or the stairwell. We didn’t make it that far and we had to just stop in the hall and brace and wait it out. Hotel staff were bracing us, this Japanese woman just had her arms around me, as I was against a wall.”

1.40pm Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has also offered his condolences:

“The Coalition joins with other Australians in commiserating with the people from Japan. This has been a terrible disaster on a massive scale. It’s good that Australia has been able to offer some practical help.”

1.33pm Back from her US trip Prime Minister Julia Gillard says Australia stands ready to help in any way we can. A team of about 75 search-and-rescue workers as well as sniffer dogs just back from Christchurch is due to leave Brisbane today in the first of what could be a series of Australian contingents.

“We’re putting a big burden on their shoulders … (but) it’s what they’re trained to do, it’s what they want to do,” Ms Gillard says.

Sunday March 13, 1.46pm Stories of the ordeal from Australians arriving back home in Sydney. This from Jennifer Jones:

“I was in a workshop on the 29th floor of a hotel. The chandeliers started to shake and we ran down the hallway trying to get to the elevator or the stairwell. We didn’t make it that far and we had to just stop in the hall and brace and wait it out. Hotel staff were bracing us, this Japanese woman just had her arms around me, as I was against a wall.”

1.40pm Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has also offered his condolences:

“The Coalition joins with other Australians in commiserating with the people from Japan. This has been a terrible disaster on a massive scale. It’s good that Australia has been able to offer some practical help.”

1.33pm Back from her US trip Prime Minister Julia Gillard says Australia stands ready to help in any way we can. A team of about 75 search-and-rescue workers as well as sniffer dogs just back from Christchurch is due to leave Brisbane today in the first of what could be a series of Australian contingents.

We’re putting a big burden on their shoulders … (but) it’s what they’re trained to do, it’s what they want to do,” Ms Gillard says.

12.55pm Rescue teams are frantically searching for people missing following the earthquake and tsunami. Here an elderly lady is rescued from debris in Natori, Miyagi. Photo: AP

Japan Earthquake

12.47pm Some confirmation of nuclear meltdown from the Japanese Government. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says the explosion at the reactor could only be caused by a meltdown of the reactor core. This is of course at odds with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano who discounted the possibility of a significant leak of radioactive material from the accident saying: “The walls of the building containing the reactor were destroyed, meaning that the metal container encasing the reactor did not explode.”

So why the differing opinion on whether the reactor has really exploded or not? Here’s an interesting bit of analysis to explain.

12.36pm Wondering how you can help? Save the Children has launched a Japan Earthquake appeal. Seeking donations now.

12.08pm Some good news: People who were trapped inside a school in Sendai have been rescued. Photo: AP

Japan Earthquake

11.59am The operator of the Fukushima No. 1 plant says they are preparing to vent some steam to relieve the pressure on the number 3 reactor.

11.53am Melbourne man Jason Briffa called his parents from Sendai to say he was safe and he loved them after the earthquake struck. He has not been heard from since, the Herald Sun reports. The last thing he said was “I love you” and not long after that the tsunami hit.

11:15am Julia Gillard has warned Australians living near the Fukushima reactor to stay away and listen to authorities.

10.56am The Tokyo Electric Power company has released a press release detailing the impact on power supply due to the earthquake.

A few key points:

  • The value of radioactive material at the Fukushima No. 1 plant is increasing according to a monitoring car outside the plant.
  • Sea water and boric acid are being pumped into the reactors to cool them.
  • A worker trapped in a crane console of the exhaust stack has been brought to the ground and confirmed dead.
  • Five thermal power stations have been shut down due to the earthquake.
  • 0.45 million homes are without power

10.21am: US nuclear experts warn that pumping sea water to cool a quake-hit Japanese nuclear reactor is an “act of desperation” that may foreshadow a Chernobyl-like disaster, AFP reports.

The situation has become desperate enough that they apparently don’t have the capability to deliver fresh water or plain water to cool the reactor and stabilise it, and now, in an act of desperation, are having to resort to diverting and using sea water.” – Robert Alvarez, Institute for Policy Studies.

9.50am: Japan has been hit by a 6.3-magnitude aftershock about 7.12am (local time) today. The epicenter of the tremor just 131 kilometers from Fukushima and its stricken nuclear reactor, the US Geological Survey said.

9.27am Authorities now say the number 3 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi number 1 plant has failed – not the Fukushima Daiichi plant number 3. it’s the same power plant that suffered from an explosion overnight. Clearly some translation problems with so many numbers and similarly named nuclear plants.

“All the functions to keep cooling water levels in No. 3 reactor have failed at the Fukushima No. 1 plant,” a spokesman for the operator said.

9:09am A sign of SOS is placed on the grounds of a school in Minamisanriku. Ten thousand people are believed to have been swept to the death by the tsunami in this one town alone. Photo: AFP

JAPAN-QUAKE

9.05am: US Navy ships have arrived in Japan to join relief efforts.

8.25am: Japan Nuclear Safety Authority has confirmed issue with Fukushima daiichi 3 power plant at a press conference, Reuters reports. Tokyo Electric power are urgently seeking another source of water to cool the reactor.

7:59am: Uncomfirmed reports just in that the Fukushima Number 3 plant’s cooling system is not working.

7.55am The IAEA says it has been told by Japan that 110,000 people have been evacuated from around the Fukushima number 1 nuclear power plant. A further 30,000 people have been evacuated from Fukushima Number 2.

7.45am Tokyo Disneyland is going to close for 10 days for safety checks following the earthquake.

6.44am: Japanese workers in masks and protective clothing are scanning all evacuees from the Fukushima nuclear plant explosion for radiation, Reuters reports.

6.32am: More images from Japan. This photo from AP shows the destruction of the small town of Minamisanriku. The hospital is the only building left standing.

Japan Earthquake

5.36am: Ron Chesser, director for the Centre for Environmental Radiation Studies at Texas Tech University, said it’s critical to cool the reactor core to avoid a meltdown that would result in “a large release of radiation”.

“Reactors are not like your car that you can turn off and walk away. They’re going to continue generating a great amount of heat until the core is disassembled”US ScienceDaily

5.00am: Time for a wrap of the latest developments.

An aftershock has triggered an explosion at one of Japan’s nuclear reactors, blowing off the roof and walls of the structure around the reactor.

Radiation leaked from the plant, but the government moved to calm fears of a meltdown, saying the blast did not rupture the container surrounding the reactor and that radiation levels had fallen afterwards. Workers at the plant are dousing the stricken reactor with sea water to try to avert catastrophe.

An evacuation order for tens of thousands of residents was expanded to 20km around the Fukushima plant, and thousands more were shifted from another damaged plant, Fukushima No 2.

There are currently more than 215,000 people in emergency shelters, and thousands unaccounted for.

In the small port town of Minamisanriku alone, about 10,000 people are missing – more than half the population. In Sendai, home to potentially hundreds of Australian language teachers, 200-300 bodies have been found.

5.6 million homes have no power.

50,000 military and other personnel are spearheading a massive rescue effort.

4.48am: A man has died after he fell from a boat while trying to rescue family members from the tsunami wave inIndonesia. The Jakarta Globe reported the tsunami also destroyed a number of homes and a bridge in Tobati village on a separate island in Youtefa bay.

2.09am: At least three people evacuated from a Japanese town near a quake-hit nuclear plant have been exposed to radiation. The three were randomly chosen for examination out of about 90 bedridden patients moved from a hospital in the town of Futaba-machi.

1.32pm: Authorities are trying to locate thousands of Australians known to be living or staying in Japan with DFAT saying it has received more than 4400 calls from families trying to find details of relatives and friends unable to be contacted in the area. (www.smh.com.au)

12.13pm: About 10,000 people are unaccounted for in the Japanese port town of Minamisanriku in quake-hit Miyagi prefecture, Japanese public broadcaster NHK report. (AFP)

11.20pm: Japanese authorities continue to hose down radiation fears. Japan’s chief cabinet secretary said radiation levels near the Fukushima plant had fallen after the explosion, amid fears of a possible nuclear meltdown. (AFP)

10.43pm: Uranium fuel may be melting at the reactor. The Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says two radioactive substances cesium and radioactive iodine have been detected at the plant, indicating that some of the containers of uranium fuel may have started melting. (NHK)

10.38pm: Australia will look to provide self-contained field hospitals and disaster victim identification teams to Japan, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd says.

“I was able to convey the condolences of the Australian people direct to him and indicated that we stood ready to provide any assistance that Japan might need at this time” – Kevin Rudd

10.36pm: More tragic images from disaster-stricken Japan.

Ships blaze in the Bay of Kesennuma in Kesennuma. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

Smoke rises over an area in flood in Sendai, the area in northern Japan which is all but destroyed. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

10.09pm: Radiation is reportedly leaking from the nuclear plant as engineers scramble to determine if the facility has gone in meltdown. (Sky News)

10.00pm: Japanese authorities say troops have found between 300 and 400 bodies in the coastal city of Rikuzentakata, which was devastated by the tsunami. The death toll from the disaster is expected to be at least 1700. (AFP)

9.56pm: Serious damage to the stricken reactor container is unlikely despite the force of the explosion, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says. (AFP)

9.27pm: Japanese media are reporting that two people have been killed and several injured in the blast at the nuclear plant. (ynetnews.com)

9.09pm: Sky News has reported that four workers from the nuclear plant have been taken to hospital. Meanwhile, five million people are without power in Japan.

8.53pm This clip from Russia Today shows the exact moment when the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear plant occurred.

8.48pm: Sky News has reported residents in the area have been told to stay indoors, not drink tap water and to cover their faces with wet towels or masks.

8.37pm: Footage on Japanese TV shows that the walls of one building have crumbled, leaving only a skeletal metal frame standing. Puffs of smoke are seen spewing out of the plant. (AP) A government spokesperson has asked people to quickly evacuate to a 10 kilometre radius.

“We are now trying to analyze what is behind the explosion. We ask everyone to take action to secure safety.” – Government spokesman Yukio Edano.

8.01pm: TV channels warned nearby residents to stay indoors, turn off air-conditioners and not to drink tap water. People going outside were also told to avoid exposing their skin and to cover their faces with masks and wet towels.

7.46pm: From Agence-France Presse:

“A seriously injured worker is still trapped in the crane operating console of the exhaust stack and his breathing and pulse cannot be confirmed. Currently, rescue efforts are under way,” nuclear company TEPCO said in a statement.

7.42pm: NHK says a high level of radiation has been detected in the area of the nuclear power plant. Levels measured 1015 parts: if people are exposed to this level of radiation for one hour, it is equal to the amount people are normally exposed to in one year. What radiation levels are considered safe?

7.28pm: Japan Government officials tell AP there was shaking, white smoke at site. (msnbc) Twitter reports say a containment wall has blown off. The walls and roof of the quake-damaged nuclear plant in Japan have been destroyed in a blast, local broadcaster NHK reported. (NewsCore)

7.03pm: An explosion was heard today from a quake-hit Japanese nuclear plant and smoke was seen billowing from it, as several workers were injured and radioactivity rose 20-fold outside, reports said. (AFP) The explosion was NOT at the reactor, says Japan Nuclear Safety Agency #Fukushima

6.30pm: Japanese officials and experts dismiss suggestions of a repeat of a Chernobyl-type disaster. (Al-Jazeera’s live blog):

“No Chernobyl is possible at a light water reactor. Loss of coolant means a temperature rise, but it also will stop the reaction,” Naoto Sekimura, a professor at the University of Tokyo, says.

6.28pm: (Via Twitter) @earthoutreach: The location in @googlemaps of the #Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant – http://bit.ly/gLguTT (expand) & within context of #Japan http://bit.ly/eXL63A

6.23pm: Earthquake moved Japan’s coast 2.4m and shifted the earth’s axis (CNN).

6.15pm: Japan orders evacuation near second nuclear plant (New York Times):

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking in Washington, said that American military planes had already delivered “coolant”.

6.09pm: The Japanese Government has expanded the evacuation area around a nuclear power plant in the Fukushima Prefecture because of a radiation leak. It increased the radius to 10km from 3km earlier. Live NHK World feed.

6.02pm: DFAT said while fears of a large-scale tsunami impact in the Pacific had eased there were unsubstantiated reports of a small number of casualties in Papua New Guinea. Updates: Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Meanwhile, Google’s Crisis Response project is a good source for Japan updates.

5.58pm: Video: Radioactive emergency team despatched.

5.49pm: Two radioactive substances, cesium and radioactive iodine, have been detected near the reactor, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told NHK World. This shows some of the metal containers of uranium fuel may have started melting. The substances are produced by fuel fission.

5.43pm: Via NHK World:

Pressure of the reactor container is rising as its cooling system became dysfunctional due to a blackout and power generator breakdown. This has raised concern about possible damage to the container.

5.40pm: What is a nuclear meltdown? (nucleartourist) What are the different types, causes and effects? (Wikipedia).

5.26pm: Parts of the reactor’s nuclear fuel rods were briefly exposed to the air after cooling water levels dropped through evaporation, and a fire engine was pumping water into the reactor, Jiji news agency said. Kyodo News reported that radioactive caesium had been detected near the Fukushima plant, citing information from the nuclear safety agency.

5.12pm: Japan mobilised 50,000 military and other rescue personnel today to spearhead a Herculean rescue and recovery effort, a day after being hit by its most devastating quake and tsunami on record.

5.10pm: More than 215,000 people were in emergency shelters in eastern and northern Japan today, a day after a massive quake and tsunami struck the country, the National Police Agency said.

5.08pm – New Zealand’s tsunami warning has been cancelled. A Civil Defence spokesman told NZPA that, according to scientific advice, no further tsunami threat existed for New Zealand coastlines. “Nonetheless, minor fluctuations in sea level may continue for up to 48 hours and caution is required on beaches and in marine environments,” the spokesman said.

4:32pm The Japanese Government has declared a nuclear emergency.

Japan’s quake-hit nuclear power plant Fukushima No.1, about 250km northeast of Tokyo, “may be experiencing nuclear meltdown,” Kyodo News reported, citing the nation’s Nuclear Safety Commission.

4.25pm: Toll update … At least 613 people have been confirmed killed in the massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan – but the Government voiced fears that more than 1000 had died. Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s right-hand man and top spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, said “it is believed that more than 1000 people have lost their lives”.

4.08pm: Jetstar passengers stranded at Guam International Airport are back en route to Tokyo after their flights were diverted to avoid Japan’s devastating earthquake.

4pm: A third of New Zealand’s Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) personnel are off to Japan but New Zealand Fire Service spokesman Jim Stuart-Black told NZPA the departure of the 48 staff “won’t compromise our capability”. Japan sent 70 search-and-rescue personnel to assist in the Christchurch earthquake recovery including specialists from the coastguard, police and fire fighting service, as well as three sniffer dogs.

3.36pm: Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan:

The task ahead for the Japanese people and, I believe, the global community in the hours, the days, the weeks ahead cannot be underestimated. At times like these we are not just Australians, or Japanese or citizens of any one country, we are citizens of the world.

3.06pm: The Japanese National Police Agency says more than 215,000 people were in emergency shelters in eastern and northern Japan.

2.40pm: NSW will send a 76-person specialist urban search and rescue team to Japan following the country’s devastating earthquake today.

The team will be made up of firefighter rescue specialists, supported by two structural engineers, eight paramedics, two doctors, and a police specialist.

2pm An urgent appeal to help those affected by the deadly tsunami in Japan has been launched in Australia. Save the Children launched the appeal today, calling for funds to assist children and their families in the areas devastated by the tsunami that struck Japan’s east coast yesterday. Save the Children’s Stephen McDonald said the organisation was extremely concerned about the welfare of Japanese children:

“We are calling on Australians everywhere to donate to our appeal so that we can meet the needs of the most vulnerable children and their families.

1.43pm A strong 6.8-magnitude aftershock has struck off the east coast of Japan, US seismologists said, less than 24 hours after a massive earthquake created a powerful and destructive tsunami. AFP reports the aftershock, which the US Geological Survey said hit at a depth of just 24 kilometres, was centred 174km east-southeast of the city of Sendai, the scene of huge devastation when a 10-metre tsunami struck on Friday.

1.40pm As reports emerge of people calling for help, trapped under rubble, search-and-rescue expert Gillian Dacey assesses their chances of survivor. She tells the BBC: “In the right conditions they can survive at least four, and up to seven days. In some earthquakes, if the person who’s trapped has some water or food, they can maybe survive 10 days, and we have heard of some extreme cases of up to 14 days, but the conditions have to be right.

1.35pm Hundreds of Australians live in one of the areas potentially worst hit by the tsunami in Japan. Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd today said there were 54 Australians registered as living in the city of Sendai but that there were probably hundreds of Australians living in the area. “The reason being is that it is a place where Australian language teachers have gone to work,” he said.

1.32pm Australian search and rescue teams stand ready to travel to Japan, as early as Saturday night to help, Mr Rudd said.

Australia is ready to throw anything as is required (to help in this emergency) … We will throw everything at it.

Koriyama

Smoke billows from a residential area in Sendai, northern Japan, one of the hardest hit regions. Picture: AP

Sendai

A tsunami-drifted ship sits on a pier in Sendai, northern Japan. Picture: AP

Sendai

12.20pm Japan’s quake caused the day to become a bit shorter. NASA geophysicist Richard Gross calculated that Earth’s rotation sped up by 1.6 microseconds, according to an Al Jazeera report, which cited AP.

12.04pm The Japanese Government is currently holding an emergency meeting on the subject of the Fukushima nuclear plants, according to the Guardian.co.uk.

12.03pm AFP reports that Japanese naval and coastguard helicopters have found a ship that was swept out to sea by a massive tsunami and airlifted all 81 people aboard to safety.

Environmental group Greenpeace has told AFP:

Japan is in the middle of a nuclear crisis with potentially devastating consequences

11.44am Japan’s trade ministry has announced that Fukushima’s plant operator Tepco is “considering releasing pressure” at the Fukushima No 2 (Daini) nuclear plant, according to the Guardian.co.uk. The Government has also just ordered the evacuation of a three kilometre radius around the plant.

American Jesse Johnson, who lives in Chiba, north of Tokyo, told Sky News he was at a sushi restaurant with his wife when the quake hit.

I’ve lived in Japan for 10 years and I’ve never felt anything like this before,” he said. “It got to the point where I don’t know whether it’s me shaking or an earthquake.

11.22am According to Al Jazeera, there are now five reactors under a state of emergency – two at Fukushima No 1 (Daiichi) plant, and three at the nearby Fukushima No 2 (Daini) plant.

Residents look over destroyed buildings half submerged in water after a tsunami hit the city of Kesennuma, in northeast Japan, March 12, 2011. Picture: AP

Kesennuma, Japan


11.05am The death toll from the catastrophic earthquake in Japan has reached 202 in nine prefectures, including Tokyo, with the toll likely to rise to well over 1000, Kyodo News is reporting, citing the country’s National Police Agency and the Defense Ministry.

10.54am Japan’s military has reportedly mobilised thousands of troops, hundreds of planes and dozens of ships, as the country kicks off a mammoth relief mission. According to the BBC, Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan also plans to hold an emergency cabinet meeting early on Saturday local time, before visiting the disaster zones by helicopter.

10.51am Japan’s nuclear safety agency is reportedly set to issue an unprecedented order for Tepco to open a valve at the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant to release pressure, according to the Guardian.co.uk.

10.40am Grim updates indicating appalling loss of life are emerging from along the hard-hit east coast of northern Honshu island, where the monster waves destroyed more than 3000 homes on Friday, AFP reports.Sayaka Umezawa, a 22-year-old college student, was visiting the port town of Hakodate, in northeast Japan, when the 8.9-magnitude quake hit. She told AFP about her terrifying experience:

It was the biggest earthquake I have ever felt. I thought I would die.

10.15am DFAT has said it remains concerned for 54 Aussies in earthquake-hit areas, but added there were no reports of Australian casualties or injuries.

10.12am The death toll from the 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan has reached 185, according to Kyodo News agency.

10.09am
Unconfirmed reports the Fukushima nuclear plant has recovered power.

10.05am Watch this Ustream for live images from Japan.

10am
This New York Times report provides a good explanation of what’s going on at the Fukushima plant.

9.46am Japan’s nuclear safety agency has confirmed the damaged Fukushima No 1 has been leaking radiation outside the plant, the Guardian.co.uk reports. According to the Guardian, there are now also reports from nuclear plant operator Tepco that the Fukushima No 2 plant has lost cooling to three of its reactors.

9.44am
Japan’s public broadcaster NHK, quoting nuclear safety officials, said there was “no immediate health hazard” to nearby residents from a possible minute leakage at the Fukushima No1 nuclear power plant.

Buildings burn in the town of Yamada, in northeast Japan, after the country’s biggest recorded earthquake hit, March 11, 2011. Picture: AP

Yamada town

9.27am Japan says radiation levels have surged outside nuclear plant, expands area subject to evacuation, The Guardian reports.

9.20am A tsunami has swept at least five people watching the waves out to sea and ripped docks out of harbours in California, spreading the destruction of a devastating Japanese earthquake to the shores of the United States.

9.08am The Kyodo news agency is now citing a safety panel as saying that the radiation level inside one of the reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant is 1000 times higher than normal, according to BBC News.

9am A strong 6.7-magnitude earthquake which hit Japan’s mountainous Niigata prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, at 4am on Saturday (6am AEDT) caused landslides and avalanches and destroyed some wooden houses. Kyodo News said there were no immediate reports of casualties and no fresh tsunami alert was issued. It was followed by an almost equally strong quake in the same area half an hour later.

The earthquake-triggered tsunami washes away a warehouse and vehicles in Kesennuma, Japan. Picture: AP

Kesennuma, Miyagi

8:48am Radiation levels at the damaged Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant are continuing to rise. The Jiji Press news agency says the levels are eight times above normal, BBC reports.

8:41am Final death toll in Japan likely to be in the thousands, according to numerous news agencies.

8:39am Around 11,000 Australians are believed to be in Japan, with 41 registered in affected areas, according to Sky News.

8:35am John Large, independent nuclear safety analyst, has told Al Jazeera that Japanese officials will have to manage a balancing act at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. He says there is a risk of exposing the public if they try to contain radioactive steam. Read more here.
8:26am Kyodo news agency is reporting that radiation may have already been released at a nuclear plant and that four commuter trains are still unaccounted for in the Miyagi and Iwate prefectures.

8:16am DFAT advisory - If you are in Japan and require assistance, you can contact the Australian Embassy in Tokyo on 03 5232 4111 and you will be transferred to the Crisis Centre.

If you are concerned about Australians in Japan you should in the first instance try to contact them directly. If this is unsuccessful, you can contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 (from overseas) or 1300 555 135 (within Australia).

8:10am If you’re trying to contact someone in Japan or have information that could help those looking for loved ones, Google’s People Finder may help.

8:05am A California man has been swept out to sea after travelling into dangerous waters to take photos of incoming tsunami waves.

7:58am The towering wall of water generated by Japan’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake – the seventh biggest in history – pulverised the country’s northeastern city of Sendai, where police reportedly said that 200-300 bodies had been found on the coast. Japan’s National Police Agency said 137 people had been confirmed dead and 531 missing, with 627 others injured in the tremor, not including the bodies reportedly found on the Sendai coast.

The damage is so enormous that it will take us much time to gather data – local official in Japan
7:43am An “energy map” created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows the power of the tsunami that hit Japan following the 8.9 magnitude earthquake, Japan’s biggest on record.

7:36am The final death toll from the devastating earthquake and tsunami is likely to pass 1000, according to Japan’s news agency Kyodo News.

7:25am Fox News is reporting that tsunami waves have hit Hawaii beaches and the US western coast. No reports of major damage, but scientists have warned that the first tsunami waves are not always the strongest.

7:15am New Zealand has upgraded its tsunami warning, saying waves of more than one metre are now expected following the massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake in Japan.

Japan Nuclear Power Stations

6:50am The Japanese government has declared an atomic emergency and told thousands of residents living near a nuclear plant in Fukushima to evacuate, warning a small amount of radiation could be released, AFP reports.

6:29am Tsunami waves have hit Mexico, according to AFP. Initial waves were half-a-metre high but subsequent waves could be as high as two metres, the Scientific Research Centre in the town of Enseada said.

6:18am A magnitude 6.6 quake has now struck in central Japan, causing Tokyo buildings to sway, BBC reports. This new earthquake was reportedly on a different faultline from the first 8.9 magnitude earthquake. No reports of damage so far and no new tsunami alerts have been issued.

6.02am The situation at the nuclear power plant appears to be worsening, The Associated Press has quoted an anonymous official as saying if the outage in the cooling system persists, eventually radiation could leak out into the environment, and, in the worst case, could cause a reactor meltdown. However the Guardian mentions a nuclear expert speaking to CNN has said this was only a remote possibility.

Buildings are destroyed by a wall of water in Iwaki, Fukushima. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

5.44am BBC quotes nuclear physicist Dr Walt Patterson as saying the situation at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant is “the sort of thing that nuclear engineers have nightmares about … if it is not resolved in the next few hours it will get serious”. Read their analysis of the nuclear emergency.

5.25am The tsunami has hit Santa Cruz, CBS5 is streaming live coverage of the effects. CBS2 reporter Joe Vazquez tweets:

Boats adrift in Santa Cruz; loose from damaged piers. Chopper 5 shows boats floating under overpasses, crashing into other boats on dock.

CBS5 reporting a dozen or so sunken boats. County spokesman says at least $2M damage.

5.23am The BBC have created this interactive map with video for selected regions showing the horrific impact of the quake and tsunami.

5.16am Despite earlier appearing to have been contained authorities are again concerned with the nuclear reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. The Associated Press reports pressure inside the reactor has risen to 1.5 times the level considered normal.

5.14am Scientists said the earthquake was nearly 8,000 times stronger than one that devastated the city of Christchurch in New Zealand last month.

A tsunami tidal wave washes away houses in Kesennuma, Miyagi. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

5.04am There are still fears for the occupants of two trains and a ship with over 100 passengers that were swept away by the tsunami.

4.47am There is amazing footage on Youtube of buildings swaying. View videos here and here.

4.30am US President Barack Obama has offered Japan his “deepest condolences, especially to the victims and their families. I offered our Japanese friends whatever help is needed”. He said that the US already had an aircraft carrier stationed in Japan and that another was on its way. “We also have a ship en route to the Marianas Islands to assist as needed. The defence department is working to account for all our military personnel in Japan. US embassy personnel in Japan have moved to an off-site location, and the state department is working to account for and assist any and all American citizens who are in the country.”

4.18am Kyodo news agency now puts the estimate of number killed at more that 1000.

4.03am The tsunami is expected to hit Ocean Beach in San Francisco shortly, resident Mathew Honan has set up a webcam you can access here.

The waves have started to hit the US West Coast now. Mike Murphy, emergencies chief in Port Orford, Oregon said:

The tsunami has arrived now and the ocean is surging as though it were between high tide and low tide every 30 minutes instead of the usual six hours.

4.02am Japanese defence ministry officials have said 1,800 homes in Fukushima prefecture have been destroyed, the BBC reported.

3.59am The Herald Sun has this account from Australian Luke Norris who was in his high-rise apartment in central Tokyo when the quake hit.

I crouched next to the bed. All the lights went out. The whole building started swaying. I’m pretty high up. It was a very scary experience.

3.50am Governments around the world have pledged their support and offered aid to Japan in the wake of the largest quake to ever hit the country.

A house sinks into the ground at Sukagawa city, Fukushima. Picture: AFP

JAPAN-QUAKE

Pedestrians clamber over a piece of collapsed road in Urayasu city, Chiba. Picture: AFP

JAPAN-QUAKE

3.40am Reports indicate the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is “under control”. The World Nuclear Association has said it understands that water is now being pumped into its cooling system. Reuters has also reported the US has transported emergency coolant to the plant. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:

We just had our Air Force assets in Japan transport some really important coolant to one of the nuclear plants. You know Japan is very reliant on nuclear power and they have very high engineering standards, but one of their plants came under a lot of stress with the earthquake and didn’t have enough coolant.

3.18am Hawaii appears to have dodged the worst of the tsunami with the wave passing seemingly without major impact. White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said:

I think the enormous fears that that were there hours ago, for some of us hours ago, has diminished greatly, which is quite a relief for all of us.

Houses continue to burn into the night at Natori, Miyagi. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

3.08am Five Australians MPs have arrived safely in Tokyo after spending hours trapped on a bullet train that ground to a halt following the 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan. Labor MPs Stephen Jones said the atmosphere on the crowded train was surprisingly calm.

You have got to hand it to the Japanese people. They are really taking this in their stride.

3.06am Embassy officials in Japan are trying to contact at least 45 Australians known to be in the region hardest hit by the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and tsunami.

2.58am The Courier-Mail has amazing eye-witness reports from Aussies in the heart of the quake.

I could’ve sworn I didn’t set my alarm to earthquake last night – Joel Porter, based in Sendai, about 130km west of a quake epicentre.

Things were falling off the shelves . . . the microwave was centimetres away from toppling off. The TV stand, holding a 32-inch TV, wheeled itself a couple of metres across the floor – Maki Miyaguchi, an Australian copy editor with Kyodo News, Tokyo

Waves wash away a warehouse and vehicles in Kesennuma, Miyagi. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

2.47am A large section of Kesennuma, a town of 70,000 people in Miyagi, is burning furiously with no apparent hope of the flames being extinguished, public broadcaster NHK said. A witness told the broadcaster that the fire began after the tsunami knocked over several cars, causing them to leak oil and gas. The fire started hours later and rescuers have yet to arrive.

2.45am The death toll hasrisen to at least 310 people. The National Police Agency said 110 people had been confirmed dead and 350 missing, with 544 others injured in the tremor.

The death toll has yet to include the 200-300 dead bodies which were (reportedly) found on the beach of Sendai.

2.42am A Japanese news agency has reported a dam has burst in north-eastern Japan, washing away homes.

2.25am Residents in coastal parts of northern California have evacuated their homes in anticipation of an expected tsunami. Authorities warned waves could reach as high as two metres.

2.23am Queen Elizabeth II has sent a message to the Emperor of Japan.

I was saddened to hear of the tragic loss of life caused by the earthquake which has struck north east Japan today. Prince Philip joins me in extending our heartfelt sympathy to your majesty and the people of Japan. Our prayers and thoughts are with everyone who has been affected by the dreadful disaster.

2.02am The official Kyodo news agency is reporting that about 88,000 people are missing. The pictures below show the awful scale of the earthquake’s impact.

A man walks past burning rubble in Iwaki city, Fukushima. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

A worker inspects a caved-in section of the Joban Motorway near Mito, Ibaraki. Picture: AP / Nexco East Japan

Japan Earthquake

1.46am UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed his condolences to the Japanese people. He said the UN will do “all it can to mobilise humanitarian assistance”.

The world is shocked and saddened by the images which we saw this morning. On behalf of the United Nations, I want to express my deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the Japanese people and government, and most especially to those who have lost family or friends in the earthquake or subsequent tsunami.

1.41am The first waves to hit Hawaii have been thankfully small. Waves were measured at 48cm at Nawiliwili on the island of Kauai, according to officials at an emergency centre in Honolulu. “It’s not going to be a major damaging event,” said Gerard Fryer with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre as the surge began to hit, although he added there might be scattered damage.

1.17am Millions of people in greater Tokyo are stranded after the earthquake shut down the capital’s massive subway system. Countless workers have found themselves stuck far from their families, and unable to speak to them because the overloaded mobile phone system could not carry most calls.

1.00am Japanese police have found 200 to 300 bodies on a beach at Sendai. NHK television said the victims appeared to have drowned. Police are now putting the death toll at 88 with 349 missing, not including the bodies found at Sendai.

This dramatic picture shows the tsunami as it hits Natori, Miyagi. Picture: AP / Kyodo News

japan earthquake tsunami

12.53am The east coast of Japan continue to be rocked by aftershocks – The US Geological Survey reports seven more over the past half hour.

12.49am Prime Minister Julia Gillard has expressed her condolences to the people of Japan.

On behalf of the people of Australia I want to express our very sincere condolences to the people of Japan and the government of Japan on the death and devastation we are seeing following the earthquake and tsunami. Like people around the world I’ve been watching the images on our TV screens – they are truly shocking.

12.37am Japanese police have reported a major explosion at a petrochemical complex in Sendai.

12.36am The first tsunami waves have hit Hawaii. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre says Kauai was the first island hit. Officials predicted Hawaii would experience waves up to two metres.

12.31am Tokyo’s Narita airport has partially resumed flights. Officials from the airport said some departing flights were now taking off from the airport, but that it was not accepting arrivals. Around 10,000 people were stranded at Narita, and 1100 at Sendai airport, which saw its runways submerged by sweeping black floodwaters.

The picture below shows the tsumani sweeping its way into Sendai airport. Picture: AP / Kyodo News

japan earthquake tsunami

Vehicles are crushed by a collapsed road at a carpark in Yabuki. Picture: AFP

Japan Earthquake

Vehicles ready for shipping being carried by a tsunami tidal wave at Hitachinaka city in Ibaraki. Picture: AFP

Japan Earthquake

12.15am The whereabouts of a ship carrying 100 people which was swept away by the tsunami are still unknown, the Kyodo news agency has reported.

12.03am The northern coast of Indonesia has been struck by a small tsunami. There are no reports of how much damage has been caused and people are still on alert for future waves. Small tsunami waves have also hit the Philippines, but there were no reports of local damage or casualties. Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology director Renato Solidum told a news conference the waves ranged from 30cm to one metre.

The graphic below shows the quake as a star and the estimated time the tsunami will take to hit surrounding Pacific regions. Full image available from NOAA.

Graph

Parts of houses already swallowed by the tsunami burn in Sendai. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

11.42pm Latin America’s Pacific coast is on tsunami alert. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has declared a state of emergency and ordered people on the Galapagos Islands and the coast of the mainland to seek higher ground. Meanwhile, the tsunami is expected to reach Mexico’s coastline within three to four hours.

11.31pm Some 2,000 residents living near Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant have been urged to evacuate.

11.25pm Japanese police have stated the death toll has reached 60 with 56 people still missing.

Japan Nuclear Power Stations

11.22pm More detail from The Associated Press on the state of emergency issued at a nuclear plant after its cooling system failed:

Chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano says the nuclear power plant in Fukushima developed a mechanical failure in the system needed to cool the reactor after it was shut down in Friday’s earthquake.

He said the measure was a precaution and there was no radiation leak at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. He said the facility was not in immediate danger.

11.15pm Tsunami sirens have sounded on coastal areas in Hawaii, where the first waves are expected to hit about 1.00am (AEDT). Waves about half a metre high hit Wake Island in the Northern Pacific, meaning the biggest waves to hit Hawaii could reach near 2 metres, said Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre. Residents in coastal areas across the Pacific from Hawaii to Guam were ordered to evacuate to shelters and higher ground. In Hawaii’s tourist district of Waikiki, visitors were being moved to higher floors of their hotels.

We’re preparing for the worst and we’re praying for the best.

The graphic below shows the earthquake to hit Japan was one of the biggest since 1900.

Giant quakes

The image below is a monitor for activity in the Pacific region.

Seismic monitor

Houses are in flame while the Natori river is flooded over the surrounding area in Natori city. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

This picture shows the refinery plant at Ichihara in Chiba engulfed by flames. Picture: AFP

JAPAN-QUAKE

10.56pm Reports indicate New Zealand has downgraded the tsunami threat to a marine threat only.

10.50pm Hawaii has ordered the evacuation of all coastal areas as the threat of a tsunami nears. Main airports have been shut down as a precaution and the US Navy has ordered warships in Pearl Harbor to remain in port to support rescue missions.

10.36pm New Zealand has now issued its own tsunami warning and warns people to stay clear of beaches.

10.30pm US President Barack Obama has offered his condolences to the people of Japan and said his country stood ready to help them after the massive earthquake and tsunami.

(First Lady) Michelle (Obama) and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis. The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial.

The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy.

Cars and other Debris swept away by tsunami tidal waves are seen in Kesennuma in Miyagi. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

10.23pm Japan has declared a state of emergency because of the failure of the cooling system at one nuclear plant, according to the Associated Press. Officials say there has been no leak of radiation.

10.03pm BBC online has an account of the quake from Shola Fawehimni, who was at Hokkaido’s airport in northern Japan when it hit:

It was a bit surreal. The chairs and the floor started moving and swaying. I wasn’t really sure what was going on. Then the building started swaying and I realised it was an earthquake. Some ceiling panels fell down.

10.01pm UK Prime Minister David Cameron has offered Britain’s condolences to Japan.

We send our sympathies and condolences to the Japanese people. We’ve had a terrible reminder of the destructive power of nature and everyone should be thinking of that country and its people and I’ve asked immediately that our government should look at what we can do to help.

9.50pm Authorities have said the death toll from the quake has risen to at least 32 people. The magnitude 8.9 offshore quake was followed by at least 19 aftershocks, most of them of more than magnitude 6.0.

A truck remains stranded on a road damaged by a powerful earthquake in Iwaki city. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

9.48pm AAP is reporting thatfive Australian MPs are trapped on a bullet train that ground to a halt following the quake.

The federal Liberal member for Fadden, Stuart Robert said he and four other MPs were on the train when the earthquake hit. Mr Robert said he was with Labor MPs Stephen Jones and Amanda Rishworth, Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash and Victorian Labor MP Natalie Hutchins.

All five are reported to be unharmed.

Residents walk through the rubles of residents collapsed by a powerful earthquake in Iwaki. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

9.22pm The Guardian website has the following live report from Tristan Mathers in Tokyo reporting life is going on as normal.

It’s kind of crazy because restaurants and convenience stores have remained open despite there being no power. In the background you can hear sirens. People are still going to restaurants and getting food at convenience stores…

The city seems to be in pretty good shape. There’s no damage, no buildings crumbling that I’ve seen. As I said some people are still eating in restaurants, even though it’s pitch black. There’s no power so I expect people are just trying to get back to normal.

The picture below shows flames rising from homes and debris half submerged in Sendai. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

9.21pm The tsunami moving across the Pacific is currently so large it could pass right over whole islands in the region, experts are warning. From London’s Independent:

The tsunami set off by Japan’s major earthquake is currently higher than some Pacific islands which it could wash over, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said today.

“Our biggest concern is the Asia and Pacific region, where developing countries are far more vulnerable to this type of unfolding disaster. The tsunami is a major threat,” Paul Conneally, spokesman for the Federation, the world’s biggest disaster relief network, told Reuters in Geneva.

“At the moment, it is higher than some islands and could go right over them,” he said.

Also, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii widened its warning to include most of the Pacific Ocean region.

9.12pm THE Bureau of Meteorology says there is no tsunami threat for Australia. The latest Bureau of Meteorology update says Australia’s mainland, islands and territories are safe.

Forecaster Chris Ryan from the National Meteorological and Oceanographic Centre said there was a chance that could change if the quake’s magnitude is found to be higher.

But we’re a fair while past the event now, it seems to have settled to that level. We’re relatively sheltered.

8.50pm The USGS has a summary of the key seismological facts about the quake. It also provides some of the tectonic background to the earthquakes that hit the area.

At the latitude of this earthquake, the Pacific plate moves approximately westwards with respect to the North America plate at a velocity of 83 mm/yr. The Pacific plate thrusts underneath Japan at the Japan Trench, and dips to the west beneath Eurasia. The location, depth, and focal mechanism of the March 11 earthquake are consistent with the event having occurred as thrust faulting associated with subduction along this plate boundary.

8.44pm Reuters explains why, even in earthquake-prone Japan, this event is of frightening proportions. Excerpt:

Roiling water swept away homes, highways and the cars driving on them as waves 10 metres high hit the country’s northeastern Pacific coast after the magnitude 8.9 quake, the biggest in nearly a century and a half.

The tsunami, black with soil and thick with debris, some of it ablaze, submerged farmland near the coastal city of Sendai, and television images showed upended cars bobbing up and down in the water. Boats were floating in an inland sea.

The quake rattled skyscrapers in Tokyo further south, where the streets around the main train station were packed with commuters stranded after buses and trains were halted.

8.43pm Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan says Australia stands ready to assist Japan.

8.38pm The pictures below show the scale of the damage to stricken cities following the earthquake and tsunami.

A man shelters beneath a desk in Sendai, Miyagi Prefect. Picture: AFP

People amid quake in Japan

Black smoke emerged from a building in Tokyo’s Koto Ward. Picture: AP

Quake strikes Japan

Vehicles are crushed by a collapsed wall at a carpark in Mito city in Ibaraki prefecture. Picture: AP

JAPAN-QUAKE

8.35pm The US Geological Survey reports the monster 8.9-magnitude earthquake which hit Japan was the country’s biggest ever and the seventh largest on record.

Ships and boats are washed ashore in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefectur. Picture: AP

Japan Earthquake

8.27pm National Police Agency said it would be quite some time until the actual toll from the disaster would be known.

“The damage is so enormous that it will take us much time to gather data.”

8.13pm Philippine officials are ordering an evacuation of coastal communities along the country’s eastern seaboard in expectation of a tsunami. The Philippine Volcanology and Seismology Institute director Renato Solidum says the first 1-metre high waves are expected to hit the northernmost Batanes islands by 5pm local time today.

The picture below shows Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture as it is struck by the tsunami. Picture: AP

JAPAN-QUAKE

8.12pm Google launches its person finder application for the tradgedy.7.46pm AFP are reporting at least eight people have been killed with three being crushed to death when their houses collapsed in Ibaraki prefecture northeast of Tokyo.

7.41pm The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center said that any tsunami generated by the earthquake would hit Hawaii at around 2:45am (1245 GMT) and the West Coast at 7:45am (1545 GMT).

7.39pm Tsunami warnings have been issued for Russia, the Philippines and the Mariana Islands, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

They have also been extended to Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru and Micronesia.

The United States later placed the West Coast and Hawaii on tsunami “watch,” urging residents to stay tuned for more information, AFP reported.

The picture below shows a power plant on fire in Ishihara. Picture: AFP / HO / NHK

JAPAN-QUAKE

7.33pm Three people have now been confirmed dead included a 67-year-old man crushed by a wall and an elderly woman killed by a fallen roof, both in the wider Tokyo area.

6.45pm Agence France Presse reports that No radiation leaks have been detected from Japan’s nuclear power stations after the quake.

6.35pm First quake death reported

6.11pm See pictures of quake impact here.

6.07pm In this picture reporters at the Associated Press Tokyo Bureau in Tokyo take shelter under a table as the earthquake strikes. Picture: AP.

Japan Earthquake


5.23pm US Geological survey updates magnitude to 8.8.
5:13pm Russia, Taiwan, Phillipines and Hawaii on tsunami watch after a reported 7.9-magnitude earthquake strikes off Japan’s northeastern coast.

.

fonte:  http://www.news.com.au/world/magnitude-quake-strikes-japan/story-e6frfkyi-1226019903430

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