Japan escalates evacuation efforts after explosions at nuclear plant

An aerial view shows the quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in the Japanese town of Futaba, Fukushima.

JEREMY HOBSON: The Japanese government has ordered 140,000 people to stay indoors because of worsening conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Higher than normal radiation levels are being reported in Tokyo, though officials say the 39 million people who live there are safe for the moment.

The BBC's Chris Hogg joins us now from Tokyo with the latest. Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS HOGG: Good morning.

HOBSON: Well, first bring us up to date on the evacuation efforts that are underway right now and whether there is still time to prevent a melt down.

HOGG: Well the special exclusion zone around the nuclear plant has been extended on Tuesday. Up until this morning it was just an area about 20 kilometers around the plant. It's now larger -- it's now 30 kilometers around the plant. People who live between 20 and 30 kilometers are being warned to stay inside today. And that was because there was an explosion and a fire at the plant. That explosion was more serious than the first two that we've seen since Friday's quake, but obviously it's just too early to say whether or not they have completely sorted this problem out.

HOBSON: Chris, what are the potential economic effects of what's going on that this nuclear plant?

HOGG: The frightening thing for the Japanese government is they can't tell. It's just too uncertain at the moment. And certainly when you look at the estimates that people come up with, some of them are in the tens of billions of dollars, some of them are in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The Bank of Japan today injected $90 billion into the markets to try to improve liquidity. That followed $180 billion yesterday. So they are doing whatever they can do try to allay the economic problems in the short term. But as to the long term costs of rebuilding, the problems with electricity supply as result of the problems in the nuclear industry, well, no one yet can put an accurate figure on it. But it could be extremely expensive.

HOBSON: The BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo, thank you Chris.

HOGG: Thank you.

CORRECTION: The headline for this story has been updated to correctly describe the explosion at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

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