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Water radiation fears reach Tokyo

Workers have doled out bottled water to Tokyo families after warnings that radiation from Japan’s tsunami-damaged nuclear plant had seeped into the city’s water supply.

Anxiety over food and water supplies surged when Tokyo officials reported yesterday that radioactive iodine in the city’s tap water was above levels considered dangerous for babies over the long term.

New readings showed the radiation had returned to safe levels in Tokyo, but were high in two neighbouring prefectures − Chiba and Saitama.

Government spokesman Yukio Edano sought to allay fears over the tap water readings.

“We ask people to respond calmly,” he said at a briefing today. “The Tokyo metropolitan government is doing its best.”

Households with infants will get three 0.5l bottles of water for each baby − a total of 240,000 bottles − city officials said, begging Tokyo residents to buy only what they need, for fear that hoarding could hurt the thousands of people without any water in areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.

Nearly two weeks after the magnitude-9 quake, some 660,000 households still do not have water in Japan’s north east, the government said. Electricity has not been restored to some 209,000 homes, Tohoku Electric Power Co said.

Damages are estimated at up to $309bn (£113bn), the government said.

The number of dead and missing continued to rise: 9,700 dead, with another 16,500 missing, Japan’s police agency said today.

Hundreds of thousands remain homeless, squeezed into temporary shelters without heat, warm food or medicine and no idea what to call home after the colossal wave swallowed up communities along the coast and dozens of strong aftershocks continued to shake the nation.

Amid the panic in the Tokyo region, nuclear workers were still struggling to regain control of the hobbled and overheated Fukushima Dai-ichi plant 225km north of the capital.

The plant has been leaking radiation since a March 11 quake and tsunami knocked out its crucial cooling systems, leading to explosions and fires in four of its six reactors.

After setbacks and worrying black smoke forced an evacuation, workers were back inside today.

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