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Japan's prime minister visits tsunami-ravaged areas

April 2, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan was in Rikuzentakata, paying his first visit in-person visit to one of the areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

He bowed his head in a moment of silence in front of one of the few buildings still standing, and met with a mayor whose wife was swept away in the wave and is still missing.

As Japan's prime minister visited tsunami-ravaged coastal areas for the first time Saturday, frustrated evacuees complained that the government has been too focused on the nuclear crisis that followed the massive wave.

"The government has been too focused on the Fukushima power plant rather than the tsunami victims. Both deserve attention," said 35-year-old Megumi Shimanuki, who was visiting her family at a community center converted into a shelter in hard-hit Natori.

Meantime, workers at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant are trying to pour concrete to seal a crack that's leaking highly radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.

Nuclear safety officials said the new crack was likely caused by the quake and may be the source of radioactive iodine that started showing up in the ocean more than a week ago. Experts said the radiation will be quickly diluted by the vast Pacific Ocean.

Workers have been reluctant to talk to the media about what they are experiencing, but one who spent several days at the plant described difficult conditions in an anonymous interview published Saturday in the national Mainichi newspaper.

Early on, he said the company ran out of full radiation suits, forcing workers to create improvised versions of items such as nylon booties they were supposed to pull over their shoes.

"But we only put something like plastic garbage bags you can buy at a convenience store and sealed them with masking tape," he said.

So far 11,800 deaths have been confirmed. More than 165,000 people are still living in shelters.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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