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March 15, 2011

Radiation level soars after Japan nuke plant fire

(Continued)

SOMA, Japan —

"I worry a lot about fallout," said Yuta Tadano, a 20-year-old pump technician at the Fukushima plant, who said he was in the complex when quake hit.

"If we could see it we could escape, but we can't," he said, cradling his 4-month-old baby, Shoma, at an evacuation center.

The radiation fears added to the catastrophe that has been unfolding in Japan, where at least 10,000 people are believed to have been killed and millions of people have spent four nights with little food, water or heating in near-freezing temperatures as they dealt with the loss of homes and loved ones. Up to 450,000 people are in temporary shelters.

Asia's richest country hasn't seen such hardship since World War II. The stock market plunged for a second day and a spate of panic buying saw stores running out of necessities, raising government fears that hoarding may hurt the delivery of emergency food aid to those who really need it.

In a rare bit of good news, rescuers found a 70-year-old woman alive in her swept-away home four days after the tsunami flattened much of Japan's northeastern coast.

The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, along that battered coastline, has been the focus of the worries. Workers there have been desperately trying to use seawater to cool the fuel rods in the complex's three reactors, all of which lost their cooling ability after Friday's quake and tsunami.

On Tuesday, the complex was hit by its third explosion since Friday, and then a fire in a separate reactor.

Afterward, officials just south of the area reported up to 100 times the normal levels of radiation, Kyodo News agency reported. While those figures are worrying if there is prolonged exposure, they are far from fatal.

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