Japan evacuates patients from hospitals near nuclear plant

2011-03-19 09:58

Osaka – Japanese ambulances were dispatched, along with police and army buses, to evacuate more than 800 patients from hospitals close to the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, an official said today.

Health ministry official Yasunori Wada said the patients were being transported out of facilities in the area that is between 20km and 30km from the quake-hit plant.

“The operation needs to be carried out particularly carefully when they transfer many patients at the same time, including people who are severely suffering,” said Wada.

“The operation is likely to be completed within one or two days.”

The crisis at the atomic plant – where workers were battling to hose down nuclear fuel rods to prevent a disastrous meltdown – has sparked global alarm and jitters among nearby residents and people in the megacity of Tokyo.

Japan has ordered a full evacuation within a 20km radius of the facility, and told those within 30km to stay indoors.

“In the current situation, hospitals are finding it hard to maintain their operations in terms of necessary goods and personnel,” said Wada.

“Amid widespread worry among the patients and the growing push to evacuate, some hospitals are voluntarily taking measures, but not all can do that on their own. So the government is trying to help them.”

Public broadcaster NHK said that within the 20-30km zone, there are also six care facilities that house more than 250 elderly people, but Wada said no plans had been made yet to evacuate them.

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