Rikuzentakata, Japan Highly radioactive water was leaking into the sea Saturday from a crack discovered at a nuclear power plant destabilized by last month’s earthquake and tsunami, a new setback as frustrated survivors of the disasters complained that Japan’s government was paying too much attention to the nuclear crisis.
The contaminated water will quickly dissipate into the sea and is not expected to cause any health hazard. Nevertheless, the disturbing discovery points at the unexpected problems that can crop up and continue to hamper technicians trying to control the crisis.
Word of the leak came as Prime Minister Naoto Kan toured the town of Rikuzentakata, his first trip to survey damage in one of the dozens of villages, towns and cities slammed by the March 11 tsunami that followed a magnitude 9.0 earthquake.
“The government has been too focused on the Fukushima power plant rather than the tsunami victims. Both deserve attention,” said 35-year-old Megumi Shimanuki, who was visiting her family at a community center converted into a shelter in hard-hit Natori, about 100 miles from Rikuzentakata.
The double disaster is believed to have left nearly 25,000 dead — 11,800 confirmed. More than 165,000 are still living in shelters, and tens of thousands more still do not have electricity or running water.
Although the government had rushed to provide relief, its attention has been divided by the efforts to stabilize the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which suffered heavy damage and has dragged the country to its worst nuclear crisis since the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.