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Japan's PM warns of radiation risk after nuclear plant leaks

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan has told the nation that “the danger of further radiation leaks is increasing”. Radiation has spread from four reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Fukushima province that was one of the hardest-hit in Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami.

"The level seems very high, and there is still a very high risk of more radiation coming out," Mr Kan said.

This is the worst nuclear crisis Japan has faced since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the Second World War.

Mr Kan warned there are dangers of more leaks and told people living within 19 miles of the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex to stay indoors to avoid radiation sickness.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said a fourth reactor at the complex had been on fire and more radiation had been released.

He said the reactor, even though it was unoperational, was believed to be the source of the elevated radiation release because of the hydrogen release that triggered the fire.

"Now we are talking about levels that can damage human health. These are readings taken near the area where we believe the releases are happening. Far away, the levels should be lower," he said.

"Please do not go outside. Please stay indoors. Please close windows and make your homes airtight. Don't turn on ventilators. Please hang on your laundry indoors," he said.

"These are figures that potentially affect health, there is no mistake about that," he said.

He said a reactor whose containment building caught fire Monday has not contributed greatly to the increased radiation. The radiation level around one of the reactors stood at 400,000 microsiverts per hour, four times higher than the safe level.

Officials said 50 workers are still there trying to put water into the reactors to cool them. They say 800 other nonessential staff were evacuated

The death toll from last week's earthquake and tsunami jumped today as police confirmed the number killed had topped 2,400, though that news was overshadowed by a deepening nuclear crisis.

Officials have said previously that at least 10,000 people may have died in Miyagi province alone.

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