A suspected breach in the reactor core at one unit of a stricken Fukushima nuclear plant could mean more serious radioactive contamination,Japanese officials said Friday, revealing what may prove a major setback in the mission to bring the leaking plant under control.
The uncertain situation halted work at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, where dozens had been working feverishly to stop the overheated plant from leaking dangerous radiation, officials said. The plant has leaked some low levels of radiation, but a breach could mean a much larger release of contaminants.
Officials are also grappling with a humanitarian crisis, with much of the frigid northeast still a scene of despair and devastation as Japan struggles to feed and house hundreds of thousands of homeless survivors, clear away debris and bury the dead.
Police said the official death toll jumped past 10,000 on Friday. With the cleanup and recovery operations continuing and more than 17,400 listed as missing, the final number of dead was expected to surpass 18,000.
In the devastated coastal town of Onagawa, Shintaro Kamihara and his small troop from Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force searched a debris-strewn beach long enough to serve as an impromptu coffin.