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Radioactive Water 'Leaked' from Japan Nuke Plant after Quake

by AFP staffwriters

KASHIWAZAKI, JapanĀ  - Water containing some radioactive materials leaked from a nuclear power plant in Japan after a strong earthquake Monday, a spokesman for the firm running the facility said.

"We have confirmed that water containing a slight amount of radioactive materials leaked out of the facility," said Shougo Fukuda, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric.

"But the leakage is believed to be far below the levels that could affect the environment," he said, adding that no workers at the plant were exposed to radiation.

The deadly 6.8 magnitude earthquake also ignited a fire at the site, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility, one of the world's largest nuclear power plants.

Black smoke billowed for hours from the plant until the blaze was extinguished. Fukuda said it was not immediately known if the earthquake or the fire caused the radioactive water leakage.

The fire was centred on electricity supply facilities and not the nuclear reactors themselves, which were automatically shut down by well-established quake safety measures, Tokyo Electric said.

Monday's earthquake reduced homes to rubble in the areas hardest hit northwest of the capital Tokyo and triggered small tsunami waves.

At least seven people were killed and nearly 700 others injured.

Dozens of aftershocks hit throughout the day as thousands of people flocked to schools and other temporary shelters to spend the night. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe broke away from election campaigning to race to the scene.

Rescue workers were hunting for anyone buried alive in the wreckage after nearly 300 buildings were flattened by the quake, which also shook skyscrapers in the capital even though it lies more than 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the epicentre.

Copyright © AFP 2007

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