Bags containing radioactive waste swept away by floods

TOKYO —

Bags containing radioactive waste generated by decontamination work following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis have been swept away due to floods, officials in Fukushima Prefecture said Sunday.

In the village of Iitate, bags containing radioactive waste collected during the cleanup following the nuclear disaster were swept away and some bags have leaked their contents.

The Environment Ministry said Sunday it knows of 293 bags of radioactive waste that ended up in a river, of which 171 have been retrieved.

Meanwhile, the death toll from fatal flooding caused by unprecedented rainfall last week reached seven Sunday, with three men newly confirmed dead in Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures.

Over 3,000 residents of the Ibaraki city of Joso remain under evacuation after the Kinugawa River burst its banks Thursday due to heavy rain, inundating an estimated 40 square kilometers and damaging critical infrastructure including power, communication and drinking water supply systems.

Of the three additional fatalities reported Sunday, two were confirmed dead in Joso, a city of 65,100 located about 50 kilometers north of central Tokyo. It was the first report of deaths in the city, where police and rescuers continued to search by air and on the ground for 15 people still missing.

Work was under way to restore power and water service. Tokyo Electric Power Co, the utility serving the area, said it had crews working around the clock to fix power outages.

Joso Mayor Toru Takasugi offered an apology Sunday for a delay in issuing an evacuation order for some residents before the Kinugawa River breached its banks.

“I am very sorry. I never expected the levee to burst and failed to inform residents in areas where there were no reports about the river rising,” he told a press conference. The evacuation order was issued to about 350 households only after the river breached its banks.

Volunteers were providing support to evacuees at shelters, while residents of areas where waters had receded have returned home to begin the cleanup.

Floods also ravaged other eastern Japan areas and parts of northeastern regions including Miyagi Prefecture.

© KYODO

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