Japan Earthquake Shuts Nuclear Power Plants, Leaves Residents in Dark

Article excerpt

At least a dozen nuclear power plants have shut down across the country and millions of buildings around Tokyo were left without power from the Japan earthquake.

As night fell on Japan hours after one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded, officials turned on the lights to assess the damage and search for survivors in the worst hit areas along the eastern coast.

Yet even light was on short supply, with nuclear power plants shutting down after fires broke out at some of the facilities and raised concerns of potential radiation leaks. Millions of buildings around Tokyo were reported without power.

The 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck northeast Japan at 2:45 p.m. local time, collapsing buildings 240 miles away in Tokyo, triggering a 30-foot tsunami that swept away everything in its path, and killing at least 300 people already. Hundreds more remain missing, including 100 crew on a lost fishing boat.

"I was in my apartment on the fourth floor when the whole place started shaking and things falling off the shelves. It was so scary because it's so soon after so many people died in the New Zealand earthquake," says Tokyo resident Saya Suzuki.

"After the shaking had stopped I went down outside and lots of people had gathered in the street around an electrical shop to watch the TVs in the window. Then the pictures of the tsunami hitting Sendai came in," she says, referring to the town where officials have reportedly discovered more than 200 bodies on the beach.

A state of emergency was declared at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, which Tokyo Electric Power reports does not have sufficient electricity to adequately cool one of the reactors at the facility. The Self Defense Force has been dispatched with a generator to the No. 1 plant at the site, and about 5,800 surrounding residents were ordered to evacuate because of a possible radiation leak.

Fires broke out at Cosmo oil refinery in Ichihara city in Chiba prefecture and at Onagawa nuclear power station in Miyagi prefecture. …