Japan Still Reeling 1 Month After Massive Quake and Tsunami
    2011-04-11 15:03:36     Xinhua       Web Editor: Guo

One month after a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit northeastern and eastern regions of Japan thousands of people remain missing and workers at a crippled nuclear power plant are still struggling to regain control.

But amid the ongoing crisis Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan expressed his heartfelt gratitude in a written message to all the countries that have offered Japan aid and support in its time of crisis.

Kan's message began: "Thank you for the Kizuna (bonds of friendship)," and was carried in major newspapers all over the world on Monday.

"Every blanket and every cup of hot soup brought warmth and strength to the cold and exhausted who had lost everything,"' the premier's message read.

"We deeply appreciate the "Kizuna" our friends around the world have shown and I want to thank every nation, entity, and you personally, from the bottom of my heart," the statement read.

Meanwhile, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said on Monday that while the nuclear situation remains severe, the risk of a massive radiation leak at the faltering Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, located about 220 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, was far lower than this time last month, when the crisis struck.

"The risk that the situation will worsen and that there would be new massive emissions of radioactive materials is becoming considerably smaller," the top government spokesperson told a news conference.

Edano went on to hint that due to the levels of radiation within the evacuation zone, the area around the plant may become a designated no-go zone, enforceable by law to prevent residents from returning home to collect possessions and exposing themselves to potentially dangerous levels of radiation

Edano said that some districts within a 20 to 30-kilometer radius of the power plant will now be designated as additional evacuation areas.

Previously the government had determined that those living within a 20-kilometer radius from the nuclear facility must evacuate and those living within a 20-30 km radius of the plant should stay indoors.

But as of Monday, residents living in the Katsurao, Namie and Iitate districts of Fukushima Prefecture, have one month to relocate to areas further away, Edano said of the government's new mandate to expand the evacuation zone.

Since the March 11 quake and tsunami, owner and operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has been battling to restore the plant's critical cooling systems and prevent the plant from spewing more radioactive substances into the air, land and sea.

In addition, highly toxic water in turbine buildings and a concrete tunnel has been severely hampering restoration efforts and preventing workers from inspecting the facility's key pumping systems, which in part has caused the crisis at the plant to be so prolonged.

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