Tainted seafood fears spread as plant leaks

08:35, March 31, 2011      

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Fears about contaminated seafood spread Wednesday despite reassurances that radiation in the waters off Japan's troubled atomic plant pose no health risk, as the country's respected emperor consoled evacuees from the tsunami and nuclear emergency zone.

While experts say radioactive particles are unlikely to build up significantly in fish, the seafood concerns in the country that gave the world sushi are yet another blemish for Brand Japan. It has already been hit by contamination of milk, vegetables and water, plus shortages of auto and tech parts after a massive quake and tsunami disabled a coastal nuclear power plant.

Setbacks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex mounted Wednesday, as the plant's operator, Tokyo Power Electric Co, announced that its president was hospitalized. Masataka Shimizu has not been seen since a news conference two days after the March 11 quake that spawned the destructive wave. His absence fueled speculation that he had suffered a breakdown.

Spokesman Naoki Tsunoda said Shimizu, 66, was admitted to a Tokyo hospital Tuesday after suffering dizziness and high blood pressure.

The problems at the nuclear plant have taken center stage, but the tsunami also created another disaster: Hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their homes after the wave drove miles (kilometers) inland, decimating whole towns. The official death toll stood at 11,362 late Wednesday, with the final toll likely surpassing 18,000.

Japan's respected Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited disaster evacuees at a center in Tokyo on Wednesday. The visit was marked by a formality that is typical of interactions with the royal couple, but survivors said they were encouraged.

"I couldn't talk with them very well because I was nervous, but I felt that they were really concerned about us," said Kenji Ukito, an evacuee from a region near the plant who has already moved four times since the quake. "I was very grateful."

The emperor and his wife make fairly frequent public appearances, visiting nursing homes and the disabled and attending ceremonies throughout the year. In particular, they are expected to mourn with those affected by natural disasters. Akihito made a similar visit to evacuees after the Kobe earthquake in 1995.

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Source: chinadaily.com.cn/agencies
 
 
     
 
 
 
     
 
 
 
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