Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

British Evacuation Will Start Tonight; US Radiation Assessment Is in Dispute

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

British Evacuation Will Start Tonight; US Radiation Assessment Is in Dispute

Article excerpt

Byline: Rosa Silverman

THE evacuation of Britons from disaster-struck Japan will begin this evening, the Foreign Office said last night.

Increasingly frantic attempts have been made to bring the nuclear emergency under control with water cannons and helicopters dropping seawater to cool an overheated complex.

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Gregory Jaczko claimed anyone close to the Fukushima plant, which has been badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, would be at risk. "We believe radiation levels are extremely high," he said.

But Mr Jaczko's assessment of the crisis was notably bleaker than that made by the Japanese.

And Dr Ian Haslam, head of radiation protection at the University of Leeds, said the levels of radiation registered around 20 miles from the plant, reported by the IAEA, were well above background levels but far below levels which would prove a risk to human health.

Professor Richard Wakeford, of the University of Manchester, said that up to last night releases of radioactive material were at ground level and would not travel very far, unlike in the Chernobyl disaster when it was blown 30,000ft into the air.

Yesterday, as queues grew in Tokyo airport terminals, the Foreign Office said it had arranged a number of options for British nationals unable to book seats on commercial flights.

These include charter flights to Hong Kong, as well as seats on commercial planes the Government has block-booked. Other governments were also trying to fly their citizens out.

Meanwhile, a British Government search and rescue team deployed to Japan called off its mission yesterday and made plans to leave after finding no survivors in the wreckage.

Following the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami, more than 5,300 people are officially listed as dead, but officials believe the toll will climb to well over 10,000.

The troubles at the nuclear complex were set in motion by the natural disaster, which knocked out power and destroyed back-up generators needed for the reactors' cooling systems. …

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