Japan's nuclear crisis appears to be deepening after workers withdrew briefly from the stricken Fukushima-Diiachi power plant because of a surge in radiation levels, reports Reuters.
Early today, another fire broke out at the earthquake-crippled facility, with low levels of radiation being detected in Tokyo 240 km away in the past 24 hours, triggering fear in the capital and international alarm.
Japan's government said radiation levels outside the plant's gates were stable but appealed to private companies to help deliver supplies to tens of thousands of people evacuated from around the complex.
"People would not be in immediate danger if they went outside with these levels. I want people to understand this," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a televised news conference, referring to people living outside a 30-km exclusion zone.
It is understood that the estimated 140 000 people still inside the zone have been told to stay indoors.
High radiation levels prevented a helicopter from dropping water into the No. 3 reactor to try to cool its fuel rods after an earlier explosion damaged the unit's roof and cooling system.
According to Reuters, a plant operator described reactor No. 3 - the only reactor at the complex that uses plutonium in its fuel mix - as the "priority."
The situation at No. 4 reactor, where the fire broke out, was "not so good," the plant operator added.
Reuters also reports that water was being pumped into reactors No.5 and No.6, indicating the entire six-reactor facility was now at risk of overheating.