Video: Setbacks mount at Japanese nuke plant

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    >> radiation levels are on the rise in the evacuation zone near the troubled nuclear facility may not be enough. lee cowan has more from tokyo. lee, good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning, tamron. the latest news comes from the iaea who says there have been high radiation levels found far outside the current evacuation zone prompting fears that perhaps the crisis may widen. foukushima is already a waste land . deserted streets and empty shops that some 70,000 residents may never return to again. new tests done by the international atomic energy commission found dangerous levels of radiation in a vielg 25 miles outside that seclusion zone suggesting that the no-go area for humans may have to be doubled.

    >> the situation remains very serious.

    >> reporter: officials say the levels aren't high enough for acute radiation illness but they far exceed the standards for the general public designed to cut the risk of cancer. japan's government spokesman said they are taking the findings under advisement but had no plans to widen the evacuation zone. tamron, we should point out that in the u.s. the epa did find some radioactive iodine in milk products in the u.s. after doing tests in washington state . they say the levels were minute. there is no threat to human health , even children and infants.

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 3/31/2011 8:03:22 AM ET 2011-03-31T12:03:22

Hundreds of evacuees from the area around Japan's stricken nuclear power plant are being turned away by hospitals and temporary evacuation centers because of fear they may be carrying radiation, a British newspaper reported.

The Daily Telegraph said that officials were demanding that evacuees provide certificates proving they have not been exposed to contamination.

The newspaper said a clinic in Fukushima City refused treatment to an 8-year-old girl for a skin rash. Her family was living in a shelter after abandoning their home in Minamisoma, 18 miles from the nuclear plant.

The newspaper noted that the prejudice was similar to the ostracism that survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 experienced.

"This is a knee-jerk reaction based on the fear that these people are going to harm you," Dr. Robert Gale, a hematologist at Imperial College, London, told the Daily Telegraph. He is advising the Japanese government on health issues.

"If someone has been contaminated externally, such as on their shoes or clothes, then precautions can be taken, such as by removing those garments to stop the contamination from getting into a hospital," he added. "That is very easy to do, but unfortunately I'm not surprised this sort of thing is happening."

Video: EPA admits to glitches in radiation monitors (on this page)

Meanwhile, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Thursday that consistently high levels found in seawater outside the plant may mean radiation is leaking out continuously.

"That is a possibility," Agency Deputy Director-General Hidehiko Nishiyama told a news conference when asked if there was continuous contamination of the sea.

He added that regulators and engineers did not know where the leaks may be.

Radioactive iodine in seawater near the drains running from the plant was 4,385 times more than the legal limit, the highest recorded since the crisis was triggered by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11.On Wednesday, nuclear safety officials said seawater 300 yards outside the plant contained 3,355 times the legal limit.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog has suggested Japan consider widening the evacuation zone around the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said radiation measured at the village of Iitate , 40 km (25 mile) from the plant, exceeded a criterion for evacuation.

The New York Times reported that cesium 137, a long-lasting radioactive element, was measured at the village at a level higher than the standard the Soviet Union used to recommend abandoning the land surrounding Chernobyl.

Japan has ordered those within a 12.5-mile radius from the plant to leave and is encouraging those living in a 12.5 to 19-mile ring to do the same, and if they don't, to stay inside.

"We have advised (Japan) to carefully assess the situation and they have indicated that it is already under assessment," Denis Flory, a deputy director general of the IAEA, said.

In other developments in the nuclear crisis that followed the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan:

  • French President Nicolas Sarkozy was due to arrive in Japan Thursday, the first leader to visit since the devastating earthquake and tsunami sparked the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.
  • Flory said that Singapore had told the U.N. nuclear watchdog that some cabbages imported from Japan had radiation levels up to nine times the levels recommended for international trade. Across the Pacific, tiny traces of radiation were found in milk from Washington state .  
  • TEPCO said it was inevitable that it would have to scrap four of the six reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.
  • Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news briefing there appeared to be no end in sight to the crisis. "We are not in a situation where we can say we will have this under control by a certain period," he said.

Edano's gloomy assessment caused dismay in the area around the plant.

"We must do everything we can to end this situation as soon as possible for the sake of everyone who has been affected," said Yuhei Sato, governor of Fukushima prefecture Wednesday. "I am extremely disappointed and saddened by the suggestion that this might drag out longer."

Slideshow: Devastation in Japan after quake (on this page)

As officials seek to bring an end to the nuclear crisis, hundreds of thousands in the northeast are still trying to put their lives back together following the earthquake and tsunami, which killed more than 11,000 people and left over 16,000 missing.

The government said damage is expected to cost $310 billion, making it the most costly natural disaster on record.

Story: NBC's Robert Bazell answers your questions onJapan's nuclear crisis

In the town of Rikuzentakata, one 24-year-old said she's been searching every day for a missing friend but will have to return to her job at a nursing home because she has run out of cash.

Life is far from back to normal, she said.

"Our family posted a sign in our house: Stay positive," Eri Ishikawa said, but admitted this was a struggle.

The country's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko reached out to some of the thousands displaced, spending about an hour Wednesday consoling a group of evacuees at a Tokyo center.

"I couldn't talk with them very well because I was nervous, but I felt that they were really concerned about us," said Kenji Ukito, an evacuee from a region near the plant. "I was very grateful."

The Associated Press, Reuters and NBC News contributed to this story.

Photos: After Japan's earthquake and tsunami - week 8

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  1. A radiation measuring instrument is seen next to some residents in Kawauchimura, a village within the 12- to 18-mile zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, on April 28. Most residents of Kawauchimura have evacuated in order to avoid the radiation, but some remain in the area of their own accord. (Koichi Kamoshida / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A brazier heats the house of Masahiro Kazami, located within a 12-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, April 28. (Koichi Kamoshida / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Volunteers help clean a cemetery at Jionin temple in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan, on April 29. Many volunteers poured into the disaster-hit region at the beginning of the annual Golden Week holiday. (Hiro Komae / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Japanese government adviser Toshiso Kosako is overcome with emotion during a news conference on April 29 in Tokyo announcing his resignation. The expert on radiation exposure said he could not stay on the job and allow the government to set what he called improper radiation limits for elementary schools in areas near the tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Fuel rods are seen inside the spent fuel pool of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant reactor 4 on April 30. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A volunteer girl from Tokyo works to clean the debris of a house in Higashimatsushima, northern Japan, on April 30. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Farmer Tsugio Sato tends to his Japanese pear trees in Fukushima city, May 1. He said he expects to harvest the pears in October. Farmers and businesses face so-called "fuhyo higai," or damages stemming from the battered reputation of the Fukushima brand. (Hiro Komae / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Members of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in protective gear receive radiation screening in Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture, after searching for bodies at an area devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Ruriko Sakuma, daughter of dairy farmer Shinji Sakuma, rubs a cow at their farm in the village of Katsurao in Fukushima prefecture on May 3. Thousands of farm animals died of hunger in the weeks following the quake. (Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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Map: Japan earthquake

  1. Above: Map Japan earthquake
  2. Interactive Japan before and after the disaster
  3. Image: The wave from a tsunami crashes over a street in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture in northeastern Japan
    Ho / Reuters
    Timeline Crisis in Japan

Explainer: The 10 deadliest earthquakes in recorded history

  • A look at the worst earthquakes in recorded history, in loss of human life. (The March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsumani that affected eastern Japan is not included because the fatalities caused, about 15,000, are fewer than those resulting from the temblors listed below.) Sources: United States Geological Survey, Encyclopedia Britannica

  • 1: Shensi, China, Jan. 23, 1556

    Magnitude about 8, about 830,000 deaths.

    This earthquake occurred in the Shaanxi province (formerly Shensi), China, about 50 miles east-northeast of Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi. More than 830,000 people are estimated to have been killed. Damage extended as far away as about 270 miles northeast of the epicenter, with reports as far as Liuyang in Hunan, more than 500 miles away. Geological effects reported with this earthquake included ground fissures, uplift, subsidence, liquefaction and landslides. Most towns in the damage area reported city walls collapsed, most to all houses collapsed and many of the towns reported ground fissures with water gushing out.

  • 2: Tangshan, China, July 27, 1976

    Chinese Earthquake
    Keystone  /  Getty Images
    1976: Workers start rebuilding work following earthquake damage in the Chinese city of Tangshan, 100 miles east of Pekin, with a wrecked train carriage behind them. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
    Magnitude 7.5. Official casualty figure is 255,000 deaths. Estimated death toll as high as 655,000.

    Damage extended as far as Beijing. This is probably the greatest death toll from an earthquake in the last four centuries, and the second greatest in recorded history.

  • 3: Aleppo, Syria, Aug. 9, 1138

    Magnitude not known, about 230,000 deaths.

    Contemporary accounts said the walls of Syria’s second-largest city crumbled and rocks cascaded into the streets. Aleppo’s citadel collapsed, killing hundreds of residents. Although Aleppo was the largest community affected by the earthquake, it likely did not suffer the worst of the damage. European Crusaders had constructed a citadel at nearby Harim, which was leveled by the quake. A Muslim fort at Al-Atarib was destroyed as well, and several smaller towns and manned forts were reduced to rubble. The quake was said to have been felt as far away as Damascus, about 220 miles to the south. The Aleppo earthquake was the first of several occurring between 1138 and 1139 that devastated areas in northern Syria and western Turkey.

  • 4: Sumatra, Indonesia, Dec. 26, 2004

    Aerial images show the extent of the devastation in Meulaboh
    Getty Images  /  Getty Images
    MEULABOH, INDONESIA - DECEMBER 29: In this handout photo taken from a print via the Indonesian Air Force, the scene of devastation in Meulaboh, the town closest to the Sunday's earthquake epicentre, is pictured from the air on December 29, 2004, Meulaboh, Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia. The western coastal town in Aceh Province, only 60 kilometres north-east of the epicentre, has been the hardest hit by sunday's underwater earthquake in the Indian Ocean. Officials expected to find at least 10,000 killed which would amount to a quarter of Meulaboh's population. Three-quarters of Sumatra's western coast was destroyed and some towns were totally wiped out after the tsunamis that followed the earthquake. (Photo by Indonesian Air Force via Getty Images)

    Magnitude 9.1, 227,898 deaths.

    This was the third largest earthquake in the world since 1900 and the largest since the 1964 Prince William Sound, Alaska temblor. In total, 227,898 people were killed or were missing and presumed dead and about 1.7 million people were displaced by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 14 countries in South Asia and East Africa. (In January 2005, the death toll was 286,000. In April 2005, Indonesia reduced its estimate for the number missing by over 50,000.)

  • 5: Haiti, Jan 12, 2010

    Haitians walk through collapsed building
    Jean-philippe Ksiazek  /  AFP/Getty Images
    Haitians walk through collapsed buildings near the iron market in Port-au-Prince on January 31, 2010. Quake-hit Haiti will need at least a decade of painstaking reconstruction, aid chiefs and donor nations warned, as homeless, scarred survivors struggled today to rebuild their lives. AFP PHOTO / JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK (Photo credit should read JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK/AFP/Getty Images)

    Magnitude 7.0. According to official estimates, 222,570 people killed.

    According to official estimates, 300,000 were also injured, 1.3 million displaced, 97,294 houses destroyed and 188,383 damaged in the Port-au-Prince area and in much of southern Haiti. This includes at least 4 people killed by a local tsunami in the Petit Paradis area near Leogane. Tsunami waves were also reported at Jacmel, Les Cayes, Petit Goave, Leogane, Luly and Anse a Galets.

  • 6: Damghan, Iran, Dec. 22, 856

    Magnitude not known, about 200,000 deaths.

    This earthquake struck a 200-mile stretch of northeast Iran, with the epicenter directly below the city of Demghan, which was at that point the capital city. Most of the city was destroyed as well as the neighboring areas. Approximately 200,000 people were killed.

  • 7: Haiyuan, Ningxia , China, Dec. 16, 1920

    7.8 magnitude, about 200,000 deaths.

    This earthquake brought total destruction to the Lijunbu-Haiyuan-Ganyanchi area. Over 73,000 people were killed in Haiyuan County. A landslide buried the village of Sujiahe in Xiji County. More than 30,000 people were killed in Guyuan County. Nearly all the houses collapsed in the cities of Longde and Huining. About 125 miles of surface faulting was seen from Lijunbu through Ganyanchi to Jingtai. There were large numbers of landslides and ground cracks throughout the epicentral area. Some rivers were dammed, others changed course.

  • 8: Ardabil, Iran, March. 23, 893

    Magnitude not known, about 150,000 deaths

    The memories of the massive Damghan earthquake (see above) had barely faded when only 37 years later, Iran was again hit by a huge earthquake. This time it cost 150,000 lives and destroyed the largest city in the northwestern section of the country. The area was again hit by a fatal earthquake in 1997.

  • 9: Kanto, Japan, Sept. 1, 1923

    Kanto Damage
    Hulton Archive  /  Getty Images
    1923: High-angle view of earthquake and fire damage on Hongokucho Street and the Kanda District, taken from the Yamaguchi Bank building after the Kanto earthquake, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
    7.9 magnitude, 142,800 deaths.

    This earthquake brought extreme destruction in the Tokyo-Yokohama area, both from the temblor and subsequent firestorms, which burned about 381,000 of the more than 694,000 houses that were partially or completely destroyed. Although often known as the Great Tokyo Earthquake (or the Great Tokyo Fire), the damage was most severe in Yokohama. Nearly 6 feet of permanent uplift was observed on the north shore of Sagami Bay and horizontal displacements of as much as 15 feet were measured on the Boso Peninsula.

  • 10: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, Oct. 5, 1948

    7.3 magnitude, 110,000 deaths.

    This quake brought extreme damage in Ashgabat (Ashkhabad) and nearby villages, where almost all the brick buildings collapsed, concrete structures were heavily damaged and freight trains were derailed. Damage and casualties also occurred in the Darreh Gaz area in neighboring Iran. Surface rupture was observed both northwest and southeast of Ashgabat. Many sources list the casualty total at 10,000, but a news release from the newly independent government on Dec. 9, 1988, advised that the correct death toll was 110,000. (Turkmenistan had been part of the Soviet Union, which tended to downplay the death tolls from man-made and natural disasters.)

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