S Korean schools shut over radiation fears
Seoul - Dozens of South Korean schools cancelled classes on Thursday and North Koreans were urged to stay indoors over fears that rain carried radioactive material from Japan's stricken nuclear plant.
More than 130 elementary schools and kindergartens in Gyeonggi province surrounding the South's capital Seoul cancelled or cut classes after rain began falling.
The provincial education office had told schools on Wednesday to cancel or shorten classes due to "growing anxiety among students and parents over conflicting claims on the safety of radiation exposure".
Schools in remote areas, where students have a long walk to class, were particularly encouraged to cancel activities. At institutions that stayed open, teachers were advised to suspend outdoor activities.
Concern grew in the South, one of the nearest countries to Japan, after the weather agency said on Monday that radioactive material from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant may be carried to the peninsula by southeasterly winds.
The amount of radioactive material in the rainfall is too tiny to pose any health threat, the prime minister's office said on Thursday, calling for education offices to refrain from "making parents nervous".
Sporting events cancelled
But complaints from parents mounted on the website of Seoul city's education office, which refused to scrap classes and called for calm.
"Please order class cancellation. I'm worried to death about my kid and can't sleep," said one posting.
Education authorities in North Chungcheong province south of Gyeonggi postponed football, baseball and other sporting events.
North Korea also aired television appeals to people to shelter from the rain or to take a thorough shower if soaked.
In a programme aired on Wednesday night, state TV urged people to arm themselves with raincoats and boots as well as umbrellas on rainy days, the South's Yonhap news agency reported.
"Please cover farm vegetables with plastic wrap and don't let livestock wander around under the rain," said a health official who appeared in the latest of a series of TV programmes on radiation hazards aired this week.
Radioactive material including caesium was found in the North's cities including the capital Pyongyang but the amount was too small to pose a health threat, state TV reported on Tuesday according to Yonhap.