March 2002

Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan: 9.400 people evacuated after fire threatened stocks of radioactive materials

Mainichi Shimbun, 13 March 2002

[Posted 14/03/2002]

Locals flee fire at radioactive factory in Miyazaki - Some 9,400 residents of Nobeoka, Miyazaki Prefecture, were ordered to evacuate Tuesday night after a factory that stores radioactive material caught fire, authorities said. Thick black smoke bellows out of the Asahi Kasei Corp. factory in Nobeoka, Miyazaki Prefecture, on Tuesday. Thick black smoke was bellowing out of the four-story Asahi Kasei Corp. factory in the city's Nagahama district at 10 p.m., some five hours after the start of the blaze.A Science and Technology Ministry spokesman said some 40 metal containers of the radioactive material, Cobalt 60, are stored in the factory's third floor. The possibility that the residents were exposed to radiation is virtually none because the level of radiation Cobalt 60 emits is low, ministry officials claimed. Officials of the Nobeoka Municipal Government have set up a disaster task force and urged 9,407 people living near the factory to evacuate because highly toxic gas could be generated from the factory. The flames reportedly reached the third floor. Emergency officials said some 140 workers were at the Asahi Kasei Leona factory when the fire broke out in its switchboard room, but they all managed to escape unhurt. "The air was filled with the smell of burning rubber from around 5 p.m.," an employee of a neighboring car dealer said. The factory manufactures synthetic material used in tires, car engine parts and stockings. Cobalt 60, a heavy radioactive isotope, is used at the factory for meters attached to tanks, Asahi Kasei officials said.

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