Latest News: Japan Earthquake: 10,000 People were killed > The government has said at least 1,000 people were believed to have lost their lives, but the police chief in badly hit Miyagi prefecture said the death toll there alone is certain to exceed 10,000.
More than 170,000 people had been evacuated as a precaution, though Edano said the radioactivity released into the environment so far was so small it didn’t pose any health threats.
A complete meltdown – the collapse of a power plant’s systems and its ability to keep temperatures under control – could release uranium and dangerous contaminants into the environment and pose major, widespread health risks.
Up to 160 people, including 60 elderly patients and medical staff who had been waiting for evacuation in the nearby town of Futabe, and 100 others evacuating by bus, might have been exposed to radiation, said Ryo Miyake, a spokesman from Japan’s nuclear agency. The severity of their exposure, or if it had reached dangerous levels, was not clear. They were being taken to hospitals.
Edano told reporters that a partial meltdown in Unit 3 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant was “highly possible.”
Asked whether a partial meltdown had occurred, Edano said that “because it’s inside the reactor, we cannot directly check it but we are taking measures on the assumption” that it had.
The government doubled the number of troops pressed into rescue and recovery operations to about 100,000 from 51,000, as powerful aftershocks continued to rock the country. Hundreds have hit since the initial temblor.