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EU to send assistance to Japan (Wrapup 2)

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The European Union is sending aid to Japan to help it deal with the aftermath of earthquakes and a tsunami, Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The European Union is sending aid to Japan to help it deal with the aftermath of earthquakes and a tsunami, Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The European Union has... presented a consolidated offer to the Japanese authorities," Barroso said. "We continue to stand by the Japanese people and the Japanese authorities in these very difficult moments."

Large parts of eastern Japan were left devastated after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast on Friday, sparking a powerful tsunami. It was followed by aftershocks that have since caused blasts at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in the country's east, raising fears of a nuclear meltdown.

Over 10,000 people are reported dead or missing in Japan following the disasters. A death toll of 3,300 has so far been confirmed.

Cooling systems at the Fukushima plant failed following the earthquake, resulting in blasts at units One and Three on Monday, and at Unit Two on Tuesday.

'Apocalypse'

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger on Tuesday dubbed Japan's disaster an "apocalypse," and noted that the Japanese authorities have almost lost control of the situation.

Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom is worried by the situation at three units of the Japanese Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant, which were not in operation when the powerful quake and tsunami struck last week.

Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko said at a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that units Four, Five and Six were out of operation when the disaster struck, and were initially not considered a threat. Fuel rods had been removed from the reactor core and kept in a storage pool.

However coolant in the storage pool did not circulate properly, and water in the pool evaporated as a result and upper parts of fuel rods started melting.

"This is the only possible scenario. Japanese specialists told us that hydrogen exploded at unit Four. We made a full model and calculated possible scenarios, there is no other way hydrogen may appear and explode in this unit," he said.

"The worst thing is that two similar units are in the vicinity - units Five and Six, where temperatures are also reported to be rising," the Russian nuclear official added.

Kiriyenko said that even in the worst-case scenario, there is no threat of the radioactive pollution of the Russian territory.

"We studied such an 'apocalyptic scenario' - at the moment, winds are blowing towards Russia and continue to blow in the same direction with great speed for several days running," he said.

"Even in such case there is no threat to the Russian Far East, because it [the radioactive cloud] will consist mainly of short-living isotopes, which would decay before reaching Russia."

Evacuation

The operator of Fukushima, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said on Tuesday that all personnel must be evacuated from the control room at the plant's reactor No.1 after radiation levels became critical, Kyodo news agency said. The agency did not report the exact radiation level reading.

The container of a plant reactor may have been partially damaged, Jiji Press reported.

The company said earlier on Tuesday the problem could develop into a critical ''meltdown'' situation after part of container vessel in reactor No. 2 was damaged following a hydrogen explosion at 6:10 a.m. (21.10, Monday GMT).

The level of radiation around Fukushima 1 is high enough to affect human health, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said earlier on Tuesday.

He said 400 millisieverts of radiation per hour had been detected around reactor No.3 at 10:22 a.m. local time (01.22 GMT), four times higher than the acceptable radiation level for humans.

The No.1, No.2 and No.3 reactors are all releasing hazardous radioactive material.

All residents within a 20 kilometer radius of the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant have been evacuated, Japan's National Police Agency said.

Meanwhile, temperatures have been rising slightly in Units Five and Six of Fukushima 1.

The danger zone around the plant was extended to 30 km, and an upsurge in radiation levels forced the evacuation of personnel from the plant's control room.

A 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Japan on Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The tremors were registered at 18:49 local time (09:49 GMT,) 167 kilometers south-east of the city of Sendai in the Miyagi Prefecture.

Radioactive iodine and cesium were detected in Tokyo following a blast at reactor No.4 on Tuesday, Jiji Press reported. Radiation levels in the city stood at 0.809 microsievert at 10 a.m. (01.00 GMT), about 20 times the level observed on Monday.

Russian aid

Russia's Emergencies Ministry is sending its first batch of humanitarian aid to Japan, ministry spokeswoman Irina Andrianova said Tuesday.

Andrianova said an Ilyushin Il-76 Candid airlifter with 8,600 blankets weighing over 17 metric tons on board will depart Tuesday evening.

"Today the Japanese side asked Russia for 10,000 blankets and 10,000 mattresses. Russian Emergencies Ministry flights will deliver the required humanitarian cargo to Japan," she said.

Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday asked Japan's ambassador to Russia Masaharu Kono to assist in the departure of Russian nuclear specialists and rescuers for Japan.

The Russian specialists have been dispatched to Japan to help the country's authorities in a rescue operation in the aftermath of Friday's tragedy and manage the situation at the Fukushima plant.

The Russian experts, who arrived in Russia's Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk, were waiting for permission from the Japanese authorities to fly to Tokyo.

The specialists sent to Japan are nuclear experts who have experience in the clean-up of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine in 1986, the Russian minister said.

A group of 80 Russian rescuers are already working in the city of Sendai.

MOSCOW, March 15 (RIA Novosti) 

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