Japanese PM criticises mishandling of n-plant crisis

March 15th, 2011 - 7:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Tokyo, March 15 (IANS) Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan Tuesday slammed Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) for its improper handling of the quake-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant at which two explosions led to leaking of radioactive substances into the atmosphere.

According to Kyodo news agency, one of its reporters overheard Kan saying to the company’s executives at TEPCO’s head office, “what the hell is going on?”, Xinhuareported.

Kan’s angry remarks came as local TV was reporting an explosion to the public at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant which led to radiation leaking into the atmosphere and being detected in the country’s capital.

Sources well versed with the matter said the prime minister was livid that he was receiving his news at the same time and in the same manner as the rest of the nation.

The Japanese prime minister has asked TEPCO not to withdraw its workers from the faltering power plant, saying that in the event of a withdrawal he was “100 percent sure the company would collapse”.

Kan’s remarks came after, following the second explosion Tuesday TEPCO pulled out 750 workers, leaving just 50 to deal with cooling the overheating reactors.

Fukushima Govorner Yuhei Sato called up Naoto and told him that “the fears and anger of residents in the prefecture are reaching the limit,” said a statement by a local government official to the press Tuesday.

Residents in Japan as well as the government are dissatisfied with TEPCO’s shoddy and tardy release of vital information on the failing plant’s status.

Yuhei insisted the central government to do more to end the nuclear crisis and said that TEPCO should “provide accurate information much earlier to the central government”.

To improve communication, the government and TEPCO Tuesday launched a joint crisis headquarters to deal with the situation at the Fukushima power plant.

Authorities in Tokyo, meanwhile, reported that radiation levels spiked in the nation’s capital and its vicinity, following the two explosions at the plant. It caused a panicked public to empty the shelves of supermarkets, home supply and convenience stores.

Enforced power outages Tuesday evening are expected to throw the greater Tokyo area into wider disarray .

The transport ministry has also imposed a no-fly zone within 30 km of the affected plant in Fukushima prefecture, as the catastrophe escalates by the hour.

Kan has also ordered the Self-Defence Forces to shift their focus from relief rather than rescue operations, as thousands of people in temporary evacuation centres are running low on essential supplies.

Some people in the most remote areas of the quake-ravaged northeastern Japan, have been without food or water since the magnitude 9.0 quake struck Friday, according to local media reports.

“While we will continue with our rescue operations, there are many people at evacuation centres hoping for help so we need to gradually shift our work to addressing their needs,” Kan said at a Cabinet-level emergency disaster headquarters meeting held at his office.

“It is most effective for the SDF to take charge of this task because they have the organizational power to do so, Kan said refering to transporting much-needed emergency supplies.

According to official figures, Friday’s quake and tsunami have left 6,400 people dead or missing, with numbers expected to rise well above 15,000 people.

The National Police Agency said Tuesday that 2,722 people were confirmed dead in 12 prefectures in Japan, while 3,742 remained missing as of 3.30 p.m.

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