Japan has raised the severity level of its nuclear crisis, putting it on a par with that of the Chernobyl disaster. But the authorities say that does not mean that people’s lives are in danger.
The alarm has been raised to the highest level, seven. But that is not a sign that the situation at Fukushima has suddenly got worse. Rather, revised analysis of available data has revealed that the impact of radiation leaks has been widespread, according to Japan’s nuclear safety watchdog.
Monday’s earthquake that shook buildings in Tokyo killed at least three people north of the capital. The 7-magnitude earthquake struck in the late afternoon.
Tuesday has seen two more major aftershocks hit north-east Japan, again swaying buildings in the centre of the capital.
An aftershock measuring 6.3 hit Chiba prefecture near Tokyo. Later another quake of similar magnitude struck the Fukushima area, forcing workers to evacuate the crippled Daiichi nuclear plant.
Some residents undergoing radiation screenings said they were uneasy at the rate of progress in bringing the plant under control.
Because of increased contamination, the government has extended the evacuation zone to areas beyond its 20-kilometre radius.
Emergency teams continue to struggle to restore the plant’s internal cooling system and contain thousands of tonnes of contaminated water.