Public told to ration supplies as radiation fears grow
Shops across Tokyo began rationing goods including milk, toilet paper, rice and water yesterday as a run on bottled water coupled with delivery disruptions left shelves bare, nearly two weeks after the earthquake and tsunami.
Government spokesman Yukio Edano pleaded for calm, and officials urged residents to avoid panicked stockpiling, sending workers to distribute three small bottles of water each to an estimated 80,000 families with babies of 12 months or younger.
As fears grow that radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant may have entered the water supply, the government is planning to increase imports of bottled water and has called on domestic producers to step up output.
Officials are also emphasising that iodine levels in tap water have fallen to safe levels and that there is no need to hoard bottled water, although that is unlikely to be heeded by a public increasingly worried about the safety of its food and water.
City authorities warned that infants should not be given tap water on Wednesday after elevated levels of radioactive iodine were detected at treatment facilities around the capital. At the water plant in the city of Matsudo, east of Tokyo, iodine-131 concentrations were at 220 becquerels per litre, well over the maximum limit of 100 becquerels per litre for children.
Meanwhile, three workers laying electrical cables at the damaged nuclear plant yesterday were exposed to high levels of radiation, according to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, with two being admitted to hospital with injuries to their legs and feet.
The men are being treated for beta ray burns, according to the Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), and are to be transferred to a specialist unit at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences.
Around 25 members of the emergency services dealing with the crisis at the plant have been treated for injuries since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Engineers have been able to connect power to all six reactors at the plant and have restarted a water pump that it is hoped will reduce the overheating.
However, Tepco confirmed that radioactive iodine 147 times normal levels has been detected in sea water close to the plant.
Australia, Russia, Canada, Singapore and the Philippines have become the latest countries to restrict imports of Japanese food.
The US and Hong Kong announced similar measures on Wednesday and France has also called on the EU to introduce restrictions. (© Daily Telegraph, London)