2 Australian rescuers exposed to radiation in Japan

13:45, March 16, 2011      

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Two members of an Australian search and rescue team have been exposed to low level radiation in Japan, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced on Wednesday.

The two men were part of a multinational group, which works more than 100 km from Fukushima.

Gillard said they were aboard an American helicopter, and due to wild weather, the helicopter has made an unexpected landing at Fukushima airport, which is 20 km outside the exclusion zone mandated in the wake of damage to a nuclear power plant from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that hit Japan.

Gillard said search and rescue teams trained for dealing with contamination and the two men undertook decontamination procedures when they returned to their base more than 100 km from the reactor site.

"Two of the team ... were tested for contamination and they did show very low levels of contamination on their boots," Gillard told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

Gillard added that these two personnel are safe and well.

Meanwhile, Gillard said it was too early to make predictions about the economic impact from the Japanese disaster, either globally or at home.

"The economic consequences of these very, very awful events will become clearer in the week and months ahead," she said.

On Wednesday morning, figures released by Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade showed 3715 Australians were registered as being in Japan. Of those 3230 have been confirmed as safe, including 119 in the worst affected areas of the country.

However, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd told reporters in Canberra that 144 Australians remained unaccounted for and that number was in flux.

Gillard said Australian consular staff in Japan will continue to contact them and make sure they are safe.

Source: Xinhua

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