Asia

Japan worker killed in Fukushima nuclear plant accident

Workers prepare themselves prior to operate in front of Unit Three under the decommissioning of its reactors at tsunami-crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northern Japan, 11 December 2014 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Thousands of workers have been hired to contain toxic water and stabilise the power plant

A Japanese worker has died at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after falling into a water tank.

He is the second person to have died at the plant that was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Waves from the tsunami swamped the plant's cooling systems and caused three reactors to melt down.

Nearly 7,000 workers remain at the plant and are trying to stabilise it as well as contain large quantities of toxic water.

The incident follows a report that more workers were injured at the plant compared to the previous year.

The meltdowns at the plant resulted in the contamination of the surrounding area, forcing the compulsory evacuation of 80,000 residents. Most remain unable to go home.

The plant subsequently saw a series of toxic water leaks. Huge volumes of water are being pumped in to cool nuclear reactors, creating contaminated water that must be stored securely in tanks for processing.

On Tuesday, the unnamed worker in his fifties died after he fell into the 10m-high (33ft) water tank, which was empty at the time.

He had been inspecting the container with two other workers at the top.

"He was wearing a harness, but the hook was found tucked inside the harness. This means the harness was not being used. We are investigating whether safety measures were appropriately observed," a spokesman from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

In March 2014, a worker died after he was buried in rubble while digging at the site.

Increased number of injuries

Image copyright AP
Image caption Many of the workers at Fukushima Daiichi are contract labourers hired by subcontractors

Tepco officials revealed earlier this month that the number of workers injured at the plant for this fiscal year ending in March had already far exceeded the figure for the previous fiscal year.

They said it was mainly due to the increase of workers at the plant, as well as "poor on-site coordination and management by the partner company", according to the report by Jiji Press.

It stated that 39 workers were injured and one became ill between April and November 2014, compared to 23 injured workers, including one who eventually died, in the whole of the previous fiscal year.

The number of workers has nearly doubled since the last fiscal year. Most workers are contract labourers.

Tepco has since been hit by accusations of low pay and for allowing unskilled workers to be hired, and the company is being sued by a group of current and former employees for unpaid hazard wages.

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