PHL embassy ready to move Filipinos from Fukushima to safer ground

April 13, 2011 12:35 am 

By Faye P. Velasco

MANILA, April 12 — Amid reports that the Japanese government has raised the severity of its nuclear disaster to the highest level, the Philippine Embassy in Japan said it is prepared to move the remaining Filipinos in Fukushima Prefecture to safer grounds.

“Our policy is to go by the announcement,” Philippine Ambassador to Japan Manuel Lopez said on Tuesday.

Lopez noted that the announcement made by Japan on Tuesday morning was “apparently giving the residents enough time to move to safer grounds” even as he surmised that “probably it will come within a month,” referring to the actual highest level of radiation released by the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The ambassador, however, did not say how many of the 2,366 Filipinos residing in Fukushima remained in the area after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Reports said Japan raised the severity of its nuclear disaster to the highest level on Tuesday, putting it on par with the world's worst disaster nuclear accident at Chernobyl after another major aftershock rattled the quake-ravaged eastern Japan.

The rating of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was raised to 7, the worst in an internationally recognized scale, from a previous 5-rating.

Japan said this reflects the initial severity of the crisis and not the current situation.

"This is a preliminary assessment, and is subject to finalization by the International Atomic Energy Agency," said an official at the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), the Japanese government's nuclear watchdog, which made the announcement with the Nuclear Safety Commission.

A level 7 incident entails a major release of radiation with widespread health and environmental effects, while a 5-rated event, which is what Fukushima is currently classified as, is a limited release of radioactive material, with several deaths from radiation, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The scale is designed so that the severity of an event is about 10 times greater for each increase in level. The 1979 U.S. nuclear accident at Three Mile Island was a 5-rated incident. (PNA)

DCT/scs/FPV

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