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Second blast at nuclear plant hits as death toll passes 10,000

A second hydrogen blast in three days rocked Japan’s earthquake-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant today, sending a massive column of smoke into the air and injuring 11 people.

The blast comes after the explosion at reactor one on Friday. Officials had been concerned over the weekend that reactor 3 may explode when water levels stopped rising within building.

Sea water was being pumped into the reactor, however, when officials realised the water had stopped rising it lead to concerns that the valves in Unit three have failed.

Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano added that there has been “no notable change” in the radiation levels observed in the vicinity of the power station.

Later in the day, another reactor at the plant lost its cooling capacity, raising the risk of another explosion.

Edano said four army personnel and seven nuclear power plant workers were hurt when Unit 3 exploded. The estimated death toll from Japan’s disasters has climbed past 10,000.

Hundreds of thousands of people are struggling to find food and water. The prime minister says it is the nation’s worst crisis since the Second World War.

Near-freezing temperatures compounded the misery of survivors along hundreds of miles of the north-eastern coast battered by the tsunami that smashed inland.

Rescuers pulled bodies from mud-covered jumbles of wrecked houses, shattered tree trunks, twisted cars and tangled power lines.

One rare bit of good news was the rescue of a 60-year-old man swept away by the tsunami who clung to the roof of his house for two days until a military vessel spotted him waving a red cloth about 16km offshore.

The death toll surged because of a report from Miyagi, one of the three hardest hit states.

The police chief told disaster relief officials more than 10,000 people were killed, police spokesman Go Sugawara told The Associated Press.

That was an estimate — only 400 people have been confirmed dead in Miyagi, which has a population of 2.3M.

According to officials, more than 1,400 people were confirmed dead — including 200 people whose bodies were found today along the coast — and more than 1,000 were missing in Friday’s disasters. Another 1,700 were injured.

For Japan, one of the world’s leading economies with ultramodern infrastructure, the disasters plunged ordinary life into nearly unimaginable deprivation.

At least 1.4M households had gone without water since the quake struck and some 1.9M households were without electricity.

Prime minister Naoto Kan said electricity would take days to restore.

In the meantime, he said, electricity would be rationed with rolling blackouts to several cities, including Tokyo.

In the town of Minamisanrikucho, 10,000 people - nearly two-thirds of the population - have not been heard from since the tsunami wiped it out, a government spokesman said.

NHK showed only a couple concrete structures still standing, and the bottom three floors of those buildings gutted. One of the few standing was a hospital, and a worker told NHK that hospital staff rescued about a third of the patients.

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