TOKYO: An explosion rocked another Japanese reactor in Fukushima on Monday, injuring 11 people as technicians scrambled to tackle the cooling problem in a third reactor.
The toll is expected to rise with 2,000 more bodies found in the worst hit Miyagi prefecture in the northeastern part of the country.
The toll in the 9-magnitude earthquake, which was followed by a giant tsunami, is expected to exceed 10,000. At least 11 people were injured and seven were missing in the second hydrogen explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant Monday, Xinhua reported.
The first explosion occurred at the plant on Saturday, the second on Monday morning following an aftershock. There are reports of a cooling problem in a third nuclear reactor in the plant.
Plumes of white smoke were seen rising from the Fukushima plant after a loud explosion at its No.3 reactor, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., which runs the plant, said 11 people were injured and seven others were missing after the blast. One of the walls of the reactor building had collapsed.
Fukushima, about 240 km from Tokyo, is home to 10 reactors at two nuclear power plants.
The authorities had been trying to keep the core of the reactor 2 at the Fukushima I plant cool with seawater after the earthquake and tsunami cut power to the normal cooling systems, DPA reported.
Fears were increasing that temperatures in the core could rise to a level where the rods could melt their way through the core’s steel walls, an event known as a meltdown.
If the containment structure around the core has been cracked by the quake, a meltdown could cause radiation to leak into the surrounding environment.
The Chief Cabinet Secretary, Mr Yukio Edano was quoted by DPA as saying that measurements at Fukushima I showed no higher levels of radiation. The hydrogen blast damaged the reactor building but the reactor hull remained intact.
Commercial operation of Fukushima’s first nuclear reactor (Fukushima I-1) started in 1971, while the most recent one (Fukushima II-4) started in 1987.
A US aircraft carrier sailing in the Pacific Ocean went through a radioactive cloud from nuclear reactors in Japan that were damaged in the devastating earthquake, the New York Times said.
It quoted government officials as saying on Sunday that USS Ronald Reagan travelled through a radioactive cloud from nuclear reactors in Japan. It caused crewmembers on deck to receive a month’s worth of radiation in about an hour.
American helicopters that were flying about 60 miles north of the damaged reactors were coated with particulate radiation that had to be washed off.
A senior official said the US had “hypothetical plots” for worst-case plume dispersal.
Ms Annika Thunborg, a spokesperson for an arm of the UN that monitors increase in radioactivity, said that for now, the winds over Japan were blowing eastward across the Pacific.
At this point, she said, detectors midway between Japan and Hawaii had not picked up anything.
The issue of a radioactive plume had arisen in 1986 when radiation from the Chernobyl disaster spread around the globe on winds and reached the US West Coast in 10 days.
While struggling to avert a nuclear meltdown, the Japanese government is also striving to take care of millions of survivors who are still without drinking water, electricity and proper food. The toll has been rapidly rising.
Mr Naoto Takeuchi, a senior police officer, said over 1,000 bodies were found in the town of Onagawa in Miyagi prefecture.
Mr Takeuchi also said about 1,000 bodies were also found in Minami Sanriku in the prefecture.
He said the toll in the prefecture alone could exceed 10,000.
The National Police Agency had earlier confirmed the death of more than 1,600 people.
In an effort to ensure rapid rescue efforts, Japanese authorities have blocked several speedways towards tsunami and tremor-hit regions to ensure that rescue vehicles are not hampered in any way, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.
Japan’s northeastern Fukushima prefecture, one of the most seriously affected by the 9-magnitude quake and the tsunami, is suffering from a shortage of petrol and lines of cars could be seen waiting near fuel stations.