Maldivian flag at half mast in mourning for Japanese tsunami victims

President Mohamed Nasheed has ordered the Maldives national flag to be flown at half mast for three days, out of respect for the victims of the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Cabinet members yesterday observed a minute’s silence for the stricken country, which is one of the Maldives’ most active development partners.

The death toll is predicted to reach 10,000. Japan continues to tackle the risk of nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, after three hydrogen explosions in the last four days and another fire that broke out in reactor four yesterday.


WHO preparing advisory statement on Japanese nuclear crisis

The Health Ministry is considering possible action in the event of a reactor explosion in a Japanese nuclear power plant damaged by the recent earthquake and resultant tsunami.

Permanent Secretary at the Maldivian Health Ministry Geela Ali told Haveeru that the World Health Organisation (WHO) was preparing to issue an advisory statement on the potential risks and preventative measures in the event of radioactive fallout. Radioactive particles released in an explosion can potentially travel hundreds of miles.

Japanese authorities have evaculated residents within 20 kilometres of the Fukushima power plant, and ordered those within 30 kilometres to remain indoors and seal doors and windows. Authorities have also implemented a no-fly zone in a 30 kilometre radius.

The US Seventh Fleet has meanwhile moved its ships away from Japan despite already being 100 miles offshore, after the USS Ronald Reagan detected that its crew had been exposed to radiation equivalent to one month of normal background radiation.

Radiation levels around the plant are rising and authorities have ordered all but 50 staff to leave the plant. Three hydrogen explosions over the last four days have increased the risk of nuclear fuel becoming exposed to air, however the Tokyo Electric Company has been using seawater to cool the four damaged reactors.

“This is not a serious public health issue at the moment,” Secretary of the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, Malcolm Crick, told news agency Reuters.

“It won’t be anything like Chernobyl. There the reactor was operating at full power when it exploded and it had no containment.”

That such a leak could happen in Japan, with the country’s high construction standards and rigourous attention to protocol for its nuclear industry, has prompted a number of countries to review their use of nuclear power, which has been touted as a proven alternative to fossil fuels for large-scale power generation.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a review of the country’s 20 reactors, most of which are located along the coastline, while the Swiss government suspended all plans to replace and build nuclear reactors. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said ambitious plans to build dozens of nuclear power stations would continue.

So far Japan has confirmed 2,414 people dead in the tsunami disaster and 3,118 missing, while the final toll is expected to reach 10,000.