World Wrap

Official calls radioactive water at Fukushima an ‘emergency’

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
August 5, 2013

Fukushima leaks contaminated water, flash flooding kills dozens in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the U.S. State Department extends embassy closures over al Qaeda threat. Today is Monday, August 5, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Debris is seen in front of the crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant No. 6 reactor building in Fukushima prefecture, February 28, 2012. REUTERS/Yoshikazu Tsuno/Pool

“We have an emergency.” An official from Japan’s nuclear Regulatory Authority revealed to Reuters that highly radioactive water leaking into the ocean from the compromised Fukushima nuclear plant is creating an emergency situation:

 It was not immediately clear how much of a threat the contaminated groundwater could pose. In the early weeks of the disaster, the Japanese government allowed Tepco to dump tens of thousands of metric tons of contaminated water into the Pacific in an emergency move. The toxic water release was however heavily criticized by neighboring countries as well as local fishermen and the utility has since promised it would not dump irradiated water without the consent of local townships.

Tepco built an underground barrier to prevent contaminated groundwater from entering the plant and seeping into a nearby bay, but admitted after months of denial that the irradiate water was reaching the ocean. According to the Japanese Asahi Shimbun, contaminated water could reach the ground’s surface within three weeks. Once the water reaches the surface, outflow could be accelerated. The Japanese government committed $11 billion to Fukushima cleanup efforts, but some experts say more funds are needed to ensure the plant’s safe operation.

Men push their bicycles through flood waters on the outskirts of Karachi, August 4, 2013. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

Heavy rains lead to dozens of deaths. Flash floods killed more than 160 people in Afghanistan and Pakistan and stranded victims in remote villages without access to food, power or shelter in one the worst natural disasters to hit South Asia this year:

Mountainous Afghanistan was the worst hit, with 61 people killed and about 500 traditional mud-brick homes washed away in more than a dozen villages in Sarobi, a rural district less than an hour from the national capital, Kabul, officials said. In the remote eastern Afghan province of Nuristan at least 60 homes were destroyed across three districts, said provincial spokesman Mohammad Yusufi. No one was killed. Authorities were unable to get aid to some badly affected villages by land as roads in the area are controlled by the Taliban, Yusufi added.

Pakistan is on high alert after a bomb wounded 14 people on a train near Islamabad and following an al Qaeda-led jail break that freed 250 prisoners from Abu Ghraib.

Police troopers man a checkpoint near the British embassy in Sanaa, August 3, 2013. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Threatening chatter. After issuing a global travel alert on Friday, the U.S. State Department announced that it will extended the closure of American embassies in Middle Eastern countries for the rest of the week over what one U.S. Senator called “the most serious threat that I’ve seen in the last several years:”

The State Department said 19 U.S. embassies and consulates would be closed through Saturday “out of an abundance of caution” and that a number of them would have been closed anyway for most of the week due to the Eid celebration at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan… “There is an awful lot of chatter out there,” U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He said the “chatter” – communications among terrorism suspects about the planning of a possible attack – was “very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11.”

Britain and France will keep their embassies in Yemen closed due to the threat. Chambliss credited one of the much-maligned NSA programs disclosed by former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden with providing key intelligence to the government.

Nota Bene: Mursi supporters rally in Egypt as international envoys attempt to broker a solution.

Standouts:

Patriotic romance - Matchmaking is a national priority in South Korea. (The New York Times)

Deutsche dope - A new report alleges that West Germany systematically drugged athletes. (BBC)

One giant step for robot-kind - A talking Japanese robot is going to space. (The Guardian)

Gone fishin’ - Southern Thailand fishermen fear a no-fish future. (Al Jazeera)

Putin’s pop punishment - Lady Gaga and Madonna have been accused of spreading ‘gay propaganda’ in Russia. (ABC News)

From the File:

  • Former Turkish army head sentenced to life in prison.
  • Zimbabwe’s stock market plunges following Mugabe’s victory.
  • U.S. military helicopter crashes on a Japanese island.
  • Syria’s Assad says war is the only way to crush terrorism.
  • China is in no hurry to sign the South China Sea accord.

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