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Dublin: 14 °C Thursday 23 May, 2019

Japan’s prime minister: “This is an unprecedented disaster”

Naoto Kan urges the public to take responsible actions and to follow instructions as nuclear fallout fears continue.

Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan surveys the damage in the Fukushima prefecture earlier today.
Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan surveys the damage in the Fukushima prefecture earlier today.
Image: AP

JAPAN’S PRIME MINISTER has described the level of destruction caused to his country by yesterday’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake, and the resulting tsunami, as an “unprecedented disaster”.

Speaking within the last hour, Naoto Kan urged the public to take “responsible actions” and to follow government instructions, but asked people living near the Fukushima I nuclear power plant – where an explosion occurred this morning – not to panic, assuring them there would be no ill-effects to their health from the blast.

“The safety of the people around the Fukushima nuclear plant is our number one priority,” Kan said. “First we need to save lives, then we need to make it easier for the people in shelters.”

Reconstruction efforts would not be considered until human need had first been satisfied, he said.

Kan’s second-in-command, chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano, told a press conference that the government was doing its best to monitor radiation levels near the plant but said they were within the “assumed levels” – implying that authorities believed the current situation to be safe.

The country’s military, meanwhile, says it has found between 300 and 400 bodies in the town of Rikuzentakata – which was almost entirely obliterated by the tsunami yesterday:

The death toll from the combined earthquake and tsunami is now thought to have reached 1300, with that toll expected to increase in further days as authorities turn their thoughts to clean-up operations.

Japanese authorities have asked a number of foreign governments to offer their assistance in the recovery.

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Gavan Reilly

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