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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pasukan jejak pelajar Malaysia

Pasukan jejak pelajar Malaysia

Oleh Yusri Abd Malek

SIBUK...semua saluran televisyen di Jepun menyiarkan berita gempa bumi dan tsunami negara itu  di Lapangan Terbangan Antarabangsa Narita, Jepun.
SIBUK...semua saluran televisyen di Jepun menyiarkan berita gempa bumi dan tsunami negara itu di Lapangan Terbangan Antarabangsa Narita, Jepun.

TOKYO: Dua pasukan peninjau dari Kedutaan Malaysia, di sini, sudah dihantar ke empat kawasan paling teruk terjejas akibat gempa bumi kuat dan tsunami di timur Jepun, semalam bagi bertemu semua rakyat Malaysia yang berada di kawasan itu.

Pasukan itu dijangka berada di empat kawasan iaitu Miyagi, Fukushima, Iwate dan Ibaraki.

Kawasan ini menempatkan 253 rakyat Malaysia dan daripada jumlah itu, 149 orang adalah pelajar.

Semua mereka ditempatkan di kawasan pemindahan sementara disediakan kerajaan Jepun bersama-sama warga tempatan dan mereka dilaporkan selamat.

Duta Besar Malaysia di Jepun, Datuk Shaharuddin Md Som berkata, dua pasukan dihantar itu dijangka mengambil masa 26 jam untuk tiba di kawasan bencana berbanding lima jam sebelum ini.

Katanya, sebaik bencana berlaku, semua perkhidmatan pengangkutan awam dihentikan dan lebuh raya ditutup, selain talian telefon terputus.

“Pada masa itu talian Internet masih boleh digunakan, jadi pegawai kedutaan cuba menghubungi rakyat kita menggunakan laman facebook dan twitter,” katanya ketika ditemui di Kedutaan Malaysia di Shibuya, di sini, tengah malam kelmarin.

Menurutnya, pasukan berkenaan bertemu pelajar berdasarkan alamat diberikan sebelum ini bagi mengetahui keadaan sebenar dan keperluan mereka sebelum bantuan seterusnya dihulurkan.

“Setakat ini, semua pelajar dan rakyat kita berada dalam keadaan selamat, malah sedang berada bersama-sama rakyat tempatan di kawasan pemindahan yang disediakan.

“Kita juga tidak menerima sebarang laporan berhubung kehilangan dan kematian berkaitan rakyat kita.

“Pasukan berkenaan juga membawa bersama makanan dan minuman yang mungkin diperlukan rakyat kita. Jika penilaian yang dibuat memerlukan kita memindahkan mereka, kita akan berbuat demikian, tetapi semua akan dibuat penilaian. Tempat pemindahan paling sesuai ialah di Tokyo. Kita sudah bersedia untuk berbuat demikian jika keadaan memerlukan,” katanya.


http://www.hmetro.com.my/articles/PasukanjejakpelajarMalaysia/Article

Baby insaf

Baby insaf

Oleh Siti Nor Hidayatidayu Razali
idayu@hmetro.com.my

BERSYUKUR...pengalaman dipenjara menginsafkan Nur Dhiya.
BERSYUKUR...pengalaman dipenjara menginsafkan Nur Dhiya.

KUALA LUMPUR: “Cukuplah pengalaman tujuh bulan dipenjarakan di luar negara selepas menjadi keldai dadah,” kata Nur Dhiya Ain Rosman, 20, yang dibebaskan dari penjara Cape Town, Afrika Selatan, 9 Mac lalu.

Anak kedua daripada empat beradik berasal dari Jalan Tun Sambathan 4, Brickfields, di sini, tiba di Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Kuala Lumpur (KLIA) di Sepang, pada jam 6 pagi hari sama.

Nur Dhiya dipenjarakan di Cape Town selama tujuh bulan bermula 14 Ogos tahun lalu hingga 9 Mac lalu selepas ditahan dan didapati bersalah kerana membawa 1.2 kilogram dadah jenis syabu.

Menurutnya, ketika ditahan dia tidak mengetahui apa-apa mengenai dadah itu dan terkejut selepas menyedari ditipu rakan baik yang dikenali sejak kecil.

Katanya, dia bersetuju melancong ke Cape Town selepas diajak rakan baiknya itu yang menawarkan tiket penerbangan dan penginapan percuma selama empat hari ke negara itu, tetapi rakannya membatalkan percutian pada saat akhir menyebabkan dia terpaksa pergi seorang diri.

“Rakan saya itu meyakinkan saya akan selamat kerana akan ditemani wakil syarikat yang menguruskan pelancongan percuma itu dan bakal ditempatkan di sebuah hotel mewah selama empat hari.

Selama di sana saya dilayan dengan baik dan apabila tiba saat untuk pulang pada 14 Ogos tahun lalu, seorang wanita yang mendakwa wakil syarikat itu yang menemani saya menyerahkan sebuah beg kecil sebagai sagu hati tanpa diketahui isinya.

“Ketika di lapangan terbang kira-kira jam 10 malam selepas melalui pemeriksaan pengimbasan, saya ditahan pegawai imigresen negara itu,” katanya ketika ditemui di sebuah hotel di sini, semalam.

Nur Dhiya berkata, sebaik ditahan, dia hanya berdoa kerana tidak mengetahui motif rakan baiknya serta wakil syarikat pelancongan itu berbuat demikian dan hanya mengetahui dirinya dikhianati selepas dipenjara.

“Saya sungguh insaf dengan pengalaman ini kerana pertama kali berjauhan dengan ibu, ayah dan adik-beradik. Saya berjanji tidak akan mengulangi perbuatan ini.

“Saya menasihatkan remaja supaya berhati-hati dengan rakan sendiri dan orang yang baru dikenali kerana kebanyakan mereka mempunyai muslihat,” katanya yang dibebaskan daripada penjara selepas Mahkamah Tinggi Cape Town memutuskan dia tidak bersalah dalam kes pengedaran dadah.

Menurutnya, walaupun dilayan dengan baik, pengalaman tinggal dalam penjara bersama tahanan warga Afrika amat menginsafkan kerana mereka sering bergaduh menyebabkan dirinya tertekan selain berjauhan orang tersayang.

Harian Metro pada 15 Ogos tahun lalu melaporkan Nur Dhiya ditahan di lapangan terbang Cape Town selepas dikesan membawa 1.2 kilogram syabu dan ditempatkan di sebuah pusat tahanan.

Sementara itu, ibu dan bapanya, Roslah Abd Jani, 44, dan A C Musa Abu Chik, 43, bersyukur kerana mimpi ngeri keluarganya berakhir apabila Nur Dhiya atau lebih dikenali sebagai Baby dibebaskan dan kini kembali ke pangkuan keluarga.

Roslah berkata, sebelum ini dia tidak boleh tidur malam dan setiap hari berusaha menghubungi Kedutaan Malaysia di Cape Town untuk mengetahui keadaan anak gadisnya itu.

“Saya mengorbankan segala-galanya demi menyelamatkan Baby kerana dia masih muda dan masa depannya masih panjang,” katanya yang menghabiskan ribuan ringgit untuk membebaskan anaknya dengan pertolongan pelbagai pihak.


http://www.hmetro.com.my/articles/Babyinsaf/Article

Kerajaan haramkan botol susu polikarbonat Bisphenol A


PENJUALAN botol susu yang diperbuat daripada polikarbonat (kanan) akan diharamkan oleh kerajaan mulai 1 Mac tahun depan.


PUTRAJAYA - Kerajaan memutuskan untuk mengharamkan penjualan botol susu bayi polikarbonat yang mengandungi 'Bisphenol A' (BPA), berkuat kuasa 1 Mac 2012, kata Menteri Kesihatan, Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai .

Beliau berkata, perkara itu diputuskan oleh Jemaah Menteri pada 2 Mac lepas sebagai langkah berjaga-jaga kerana sehingga kini tiada bukti saintifik yang kukuh menunjukkan botol susu tersebut selamat untuk digunakan oleh golongan berisiko tinggi terutama bayi dan kanak-kanak.

"Kementerian tidak akan berkompromi dalam keselamatan pengguna terutama bayi dan kanak-kanak. Polikarbonat adalah plastik yang digunakan dalam pembuatan botol susu bayi dan BPA ialah bahan kimia industri yang ditambah dalam botol susu bayi polikarbonat untuk menjadikannya keras dan lutsinar.

"Kerajaan memberi tempoh satu tahun untuk memastikan tindakan pengharaman itu dilaksanakan dengan lancar secara berperingkat," katanya kepada pemberita selepas mempengerusikan mesyuarat pasca Kabinet kementeriannya di sini semalam.

http://www.kosmo.com.my/kosmo/content.asp?y=2011&dt=0315&pub=Kosmo&sec=Negara&pg=ne_03.htm

After tsunami, one village vanishes


A cow and debris is scattered at the site of the destroyed village of Saito, in northeastern Japan, Monday, March 14, 2011. (AP Photo/David Guttenfeld AP – A cow and debris is scattered at the site of the destroyed village of Saito, in northeastern Japan, Monday, …

SAITO, Japan – It's hard to believe there was ever a village here at all.

The tsunami that devastated Japan's coast rolled in through a tree-lined ocean cove and obliterated nearly everything in its path in this village of about 250 people and 70 or so houses.

Now, three days later, Saito is a moonscape of death and debris, a hellish glimpse into the phenomenal destruction caused by the killer wave that followed Japan's most powerful earthquake on record and one of the five strongest on Earth in the past 110 years.

In Saito and nearby areas, there is no electricity, no running water. There are no generators humming. The night is pitch black. The buildings still standing are closed. No stores are open. Everything has stopped.

"There is nothing left," villager Toshio Abe told The Associated Press on Monday as firefighters in bright orange and yellow emergency suits hacked through the vast wasteland with pickaxes, searching not for survivors but for the dead. Abe said at least 40 of Saito's people were dead or unaccounted for.

Abe said he was gardening Friday afternoon when he felt the earth shake under his feet. Tsunami sirens blared and a loudspeaker announcement warned people to get to higher ground.

The 70-year-old frantically climbed a hill behind his home about two kilometers, or roughly a mile, from the beach. From his safe vantage point, he watched as, 20 or 30 minutes later, the giant wave arrived with a thunderous roar.

It crashed through what appeared to be a two-story-high sea gate, then careened through the valley, following a two-lane road. He saw it rise up, over and through a bridge and smash into scores of houses, ripping most apart instantly. Other houses, he said, were pulled from their foundations and slammed together.

Click image to see photos of Saito


AP Photo/David Guttenfelder

Hills on both sides channeled the wave another kilometer or so inland, depositing the broken wooden innards of Saito's homes along the road.

"I never thought a tsunami would come this far inland," Abe said. "I thought we were safe."

Abe pointed to a battered concrete foundation amid the flattened landscape. It was his own house. "I will rebuild it," he said, "but not here."

Today, everything in Saito is spoken about in the past tense.

"That was city hall," said 48-year-old construction worker Takao Oyama, gesturing toward a two-story white building that stood alone near the beach, leaning at an angle into a sheet of mud and sand.

"That was our elementary school," he said, pointing to a three-story building a few hundred yards away whose entire facade had been ripped off and was covered in black and yellow ocean buoys. Most everything else has disappeared.

"We struggled, but it is all gone," Oyama said. "Everything is lost."

Behind him, a tranquil tree-covered island could be seen just off the coast. That such violence could come from such a picturesque view seemed contradictory, hard to believe.

One crumpled sign indicated there had once been a train station here, a fact Abe confirmed. It was hard to tell where, though. There were no tracks, no trains, no station.

Crushed bulldozers had been turned upside down. The blue-tiled roof of one house lay across a bridge. The wheels of a vehicle stuck out from under the roof.

A few yards away, a bloated black-spotted white cow lay on the foundation of another vanished home, streams of dried blood running from its pink nose, its eyes looking out over the destruction. Embedded in the hardened silt nearby lay a blue baby stroller, covered in what looked like hay.

"We can never live here again," Oyama said as he rested with his wife on a concrete ledge of the broken tarmac road. During an interview, the ledge trembled as another aftershock hit the region.

Asked how many people died, Oyama shrugged. "We've only seen a few bodies here," he said. "I think everybody was swept out to sea."

In the wider region of Minamisanrikucho, of which Saito is just one coastal village, Abe cited authorities as saying at least 4,500 of the 17,000 inhabitants were believed dead. Police estimated 10,000 dead among the 2.3 million people in the Miyagi prefecture, the Japanese equivalent of a state.

The firefighters who arrived Monday came from an inland town to pick through the rubble. Wearing goggles and dust masks, they carried long pickaxes, chainsaws and backpacks. They looked like spacemen walking across a gigantic lunar garbage dump.

As a Japanese self-defense force helicopter circled overhead, they lifted one hunched and frozen corpse from the mud of a dried canal filled with smashed cars and twisted mountains of corrugated iron sheeting. The tsunami had pulled the dead man's dark blue plaid shirt over his head. His white knuckles were visible, his hand still clenched.

The firefighters covered him in a blue plastic tarp and carried him away on a stretcher. Later, they found another corpse in the rubble and carted that one away, too.

The road that winds through Saito is broken apart in several spots. At one point — where the tsunami wave stopped — it leads into a quiet neighborhood of another village where two-story houses stand perfectly intact, their windows not even shattered — as if nothing ever happened.

There, on the pavement, in front of a small government house-turned-shelter where survivors rested on tatami mats, somebody had scrawled huge white letters in the road for air crews to see: SOS.

What About Japan's Children? Play Video ABC News – What About Japan's Children?


http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110314/ap_on_re_as/as_japan_tsunami_vanished_village

Japan's crisis will pinch U.S. consumers

A shopper points to the item he's looking for while shopping at an electronics store in Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday, Nov. 26, 2010. Shoppers around New Mexico hit the stores early to take advantage of Black Friday sales. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

From Gas to Gadgets: Japan's Disaster Means Higher Prices

Posted Mar 14, 2011 02:44pm EDT by Aaron Task in Electronics, Recession

With a horrific environmental and humanitarian disaster unfolding in Japan, it seems petty to discuss financial matters. Still, Japan is home to the world's third-largest economy and, at over $200 billion annually, is America's fourth-largest trading partner.


For American consumers, the most direct impact from Japan is being felt in oil prices, which have fallen sharply since Friday, when the quake hit. Crude futures briefly fell below $100 per barrel early Monday, before rebounding amid reports of violent protests in Bahrain, which borders Saudi Arabia.

Japan is the world's third-largest importer of oil, behind only the U.S. and China. With economic activity ground to a halt, its power-production crippled and the nation's major oil refineries shut down or damaged, Japan's demand for oil is expected to fall sharply -- at least in the near term.

Crude prices have now fallen 6% in the past five trading days and hit a two-week low Monday. But don't expect any relief at the pump, where the average price for a gallon of regular was $3.54 on Friday.

As everybody knows, gas prices don't track oil prices nearly as closely when crude is falling versus when it's rising. Furthermore, even if Japan's demand for crude falls, its need for gasoline and other "distilled" products is expected to rise because of the damage done to the nation's refineries. "That is going to drive up the market price for everything from diesel and gasoline to jet fuel," James DiGeorgia, editor of the Gold & Energy Advisor, tells The LA Times.

Furthermore, the drop in oil prices is expected to be short-lived unless Japan's disaster tips the world economy back into recession, an unlikely scenario barring a total nuclear meltdown. Japan will need plenty of energy for its rebuilding effort, and if the accident at Fukushima prompts a backlash against nuclear power, in Japan or elsewhere, that will only mean more demand for "conventional" sources, most notably oil. (See: Japan's Nuclear Meltdown Has Congress Questioning Nuclear Energy)

Made in Japan, Costs More Here

The massive earthquake and resulting tsunami struck the nation's industrial heartland and triggered the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl -- and one with a highly uncertain outcome. The areas affected by the disaster, including Tokyo and eight prefectures, account for 40% of Japan's GDP.

Here's a rundown of other consumer areas affected by the disaster:

Autos: Expect the price of Japanese cars to rise in the coming months after Toyota, Honda and Nissan Motors each closed plants hit by the earthquake, tsunami and resulting power outages. Japanese automakers have manufacturing plants all over the world, including here in the U.S., so scarcity should not be a problem -- save for certain models such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Fit, which are literally and figuratively "made in Japan."

Citing IHS Global Insight, USA Today reports shipments of models such as the Toyota Yaris; Scion xD and xB, Honda CR-V, Accord, and Fit; and Acura TSX and RL, are likely to be at risk if the production snags last long. In addition, most Lexus vehicles sold in America are made in Japan, although the firm has a plant in Ontario, Canada.

Consumer Electronics: The home of Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi, Japan produces some of the world's best consumer gadgets and the components that power them. Prices of memory chips and liquid crystal displays have surged since the quake, The WSJ reports, amid fears of shortages and supply disruption.

There have been no reports of shortages yet, but Sony alone has halted production at six factories in northern Japan. And I don't want to incite concern among Apple's rabid supporters, but it's worth noting that Toshiba supplies NAND flash memory for use in Apple's hugely popular iPhones and iPads.

Research firm IHS iSuppli is predicting "some disruption in semiconductor supplies from Japan during the next two weeks," and it's unlikely U.S. consumers will see any big change in electronic prices before then. But any prolonged snags in the complex production supply chain will almost certainly be felt by Easter, so expect fewer and smaller discounts from electronics retailers this spring.

Hello Kitty, Goodbye Mochi: In response to the disaster, the Bank of Japan has flooded its economy with money, while Japanese corporations and ex-pats have repatriated assets back to their home country. That has resulted in strength in the yen vs. the dollar, already under pressure because of the Fed's easy money and Uncle Sam's huge deficits. Further and sustained weakness in the dollar will drive up the price Americans pay for all Japanese imports, everything from Sony TVs to Toyotas to Mochi ice cream balls and Sanrio's Hello Kitty paraphernalia.

The Worst Crisis

The silver lining in Japan's disaster is that the quake and resulting tsunami struck in the northeast region of the country, which is not a heavily populated area. The loss of life, while certain to rise from the current official tally of 1,500, was further mitigated by Japan's sophisticated earthquake-resistant buildings, as well as nationwide preparedness drills.

Still, "the earthquake, tsunami and the situation at our nuclear reactors makes up the worst crisis in the 65 years since the war," as Prime Minister Naoto Kan said.

Financial markets and the global economy will recover sooner or later, but many Japanese communities and families will never be the same again. If there's any good that can come from this, it's only if such a disaster helps the rest of us come to appreciate the blessings we have and remember what's "really" important.

For those interested in sending help to Japan, the U.S. Agency for International Development refers visitors to InterAction.org's list of "appropriate disaster relief."

Aaron Task is the host of Tech Ticker. You can follow him on Twitter at @atask or email him at altask@yahoo.com


http://finance.yahoo.com/tech-ticker/from-gas-to-gadgets-japan%27s-disaster-means-higher-prices-536027.html

Japanese ordered indoors in radiation leak crisis


The rubble caused by an earthquake and tsunami fill the landscape in Yamada, Iwate Prefecture, Japan, Monday, March 14, 2011, three days after northea AP – The rubble caused by an earthquake and tsunami fill the landscape in Yamada, Iwate Prefecture, Japan, …

SOMA, Japan – High levels of radiation leaked from a crippled nuclear plant in tsunami-ravaged northeastern Japan after a third reactor was rocked by an explosion Tuesday and a fourth caught fire in a dramatic escalation of the 4-day-old catastrophe. The government warned 140,000 people nearby to stay indoors to avoid exposure.

Tokyo also reported slightly elevated radiation levels, but officials said the increase was too small to threaten the 39 million people in and around the capital, about 170 miles (270 kilometers) away.

In a nationally televised statement, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said radiation has spread from four reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Fukushima state, one of the hardest-hit in Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami that has killed more than 10,000 people, plunged millions into misery and pummeled the world's third-largest economy.

Officials just south of Fukushima reported up to 100 times the normal levels of radiation Tuesday morning, Kyodo News agency reported. While those figures are worrying if there is prolonged exposure, they are far from fatal.

Kan and other officials warned there is danger of more leaks and told people living within 19 miles (30 kilometers) of the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex to stay indoors to avoid exposure that could make people sick.

"Please do not go outside. Please stay indoors. Please close windows and make your homes airtight," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told residents in the danger zone. "Don't turn on ventilators. Please hang your laundry indoors."

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

Weather forecasts for Fukushima were for snow and wind from the northeast Tuesday evening, blowing southwest toward Tokyo, then shifting and blowing west out to sea. That's important because it shows which direction a possible nuclear cloud might blow.

The nuclear crisis is the worst Japan has faced since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. It is also the first time that such a grave nuclear threat has been raised in the world since a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine exploded in 1986.

Some 70,000 people had already been evacuated from a 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius from the Dai-ichi complex and about 140,000 remain in the zone for which the new warning was issued.

Workers were striving to stabilize three reactors at the power plant that exploded in the wake of Friday's quake and tsunami, after losing their ability to cool down and releasing some radiation. A fourth reactor that was shut down caught fire on Tuesday and more radiation was released, Edano said.

The fire was put out. Even though the fourth reactor was shut down, the fire there was believed to be the source of the elevated radiation.

"It is likely that the level of radiation increased sharply due to a fire at Unit 4," Edano said. "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 another reactor whose containment building exploded Monday had not contributed greatly to the increased radiation.

Officials said 50 workers, all of them wearing protective radiation gear, were still trying to put water into the reactors to cool them. They say 800 other staff were evacuated. The fires and explosions at the reactors have injured 15 workers and military personnel and exposed up to 190 people to elevated radiation.

In Tokyo, slightly higher-than-normal radiation levels were detected Tuesday but officials insisted there are no health dangers.

"The amount is extremely small, and it does not raise health concerns. It will not affect us," Takayuki Fujiki, a Tokyo government official said.

Kyodo reported that radiation levels nine times higher than normal were briefly detected in Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo and that the Tokyo metropolitan government said it had detected a small amount of radioactive materials in the city's air.

Japanese government officials are being rightly cautious, said Donald Olander, professor emeritus of nuclear engineering at University of California at Berkeley. He believed even the heavily elevated levels of radiation around Dai'ichi are "not a health hazard." But without knowing specific dose levels, he said it was hard to make judgments on the evacuation orders.

"Right now it's worse than Three Mile Island," Olander said. But, he said, it's nowhere near the levels released during Chernobyl.

On Three Mile Island, the radiation leak was held inside the containment shell — thick concrete armor around the reactor. The Chernobyl reactor had no shell and was also operational when the disaster struck. The Japanese reactors automatically shut down when the quake hit and are encased in containment shells.

Olander said encasing the reactors in a concrete sarcophagus — the last-ditch effort done in Chernobyl — is far too premature. Operators need to wait until they cool more, or risk making the situation even worse.

The death toll from last week's earthquake and tsunami jumped Tuesday as police confirmed the number killed had topped 2,400, though that grim 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.

Millions of people spent a fourth night with little food, water or heating in near-freezing temperatures as they dealt with the loss of homes and loved ones. Asia's richest country hasn't seen such hardship since World War II.

Hajime Sato, a government official in Iwate prefecture, one of the hardest-hit, said deliveries of supplies were only 10 percent of what is needed. Body bags and coffins were running so short that the government may turn to foreign funeral homes for help, he said.

Though Japanese officials have refused to speculate on the death toll, Indonesian geologist Hery Harjono, who dealt with the 2004 Asian tsunami, said it would be "a miracle really if it turns out to be less than 10,000" dead.

The 2004 tsunami killed 230,000 people — of which only 184,000 bodies were found.

The impact of the earthquake and tsunami on the world's third-largest economy helped drag down the share markets. The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average plunged for a second day Tuesday, nose-diving more than 12 percent to 8,422.21 while the broader Topix lost 13 percent.

To lessen the damage, Japan's central bank injected $61.2 billion Tuesday into the money markets after pumping in $184 billion on Monday.

Initial estimates put repair costs in the tens of billions of dollars, costs that would likely add to a massive public debt that, at 200 percent of gross domestic product, is the biggest among industrialized nations.

In a bid to stop the reactors at the nuclear plant from melting down, engineers have been injecting seawater as a coolant of last resort.

Yuta Tadano, a 20-year-old pump technician at the Fukushima power plant, said he was on the second floor of an office building in the complex when quake hit.

"It was terrible. The desks were thrown around and the tables too. The walls started to crumble around us and there was dust everywhere. The roof began to collapse.

"We got outside and confirmed everyone was safe . Then we got out of there. We had no time to be tested for radioactive exposure. I still haven't been tested," Tadano told The Associated Press at an evacuation center outside the exclusion zone.

"We live about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the facility. We had to figure out on our own where to go," said Tadano, cradling his 4-month-old baby, Shoma. "I worry a lot about fallout. If we could see it we could escape, but we can't."

The Dai-ichi plant is the most severely affected of three nuclear complexes that were declared emergencies after suffering damage in Friday's quake and tsunami, raising questions about the safety of such plants in coastal areas near fault lines and adding to global jitters over the industry.

What About Japan's Children? Play Video ABC News – What About Japan's Children?

___

Yuasa reported from Tokyo. Associated Press writer Elaine Kurtenbach contributed to this report.


http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110315/ap_on_bi_ge/as_japan_earthquake

Third explosion rocks Japanese nuclear plant


Japan says radiation levels rising around plant after explosion Reuters – Workers at the disaster response headquarters speak on telephones in Fukushima, northern Japan March …

SOMA, Japan – Japan's nuclear crisis deepened dramatically Tuesday. As safety officials sought desperately to avert catastrophe, the government said radioactive material leaking from reactors was enough to "impact human health" and the risk of more leaks was "very high."

In a nationally televised statement, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said that 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.

He urged anyone within 19 miles (30 kilometers) of the plant to stay indoors or risk getting radiation sickness.

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

A cascade of three explosions at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex was set in motion when last Friday's quake and tsunami knocked out power, crippling the cooling systems needed to keep nuclear fuel from going into full meltdown.

The latest blast was early Tuesday in the plant's Unit 2 near a suppression pool, which removes heat under a reactor vessel, plant owner Tokyo Electric Power Co. said. Shigekazu Omukai, a spokesman for Japan's nuclear safety agency, said the nuclear core was not damaged but that the bottom of the surrounding container may have been.

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

"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.

Japanese officials had previously said radiation levels at the plant were within safe limits, and international scientists said that while there were serious dangers, there was little risk of a catastrophe like Chernobyl in Ukraine, where the reactor exploded and released a radiation cloud over much of Europe.

Unlike the plant in Japan, the Chernobyl reactor was not housed in a sealed container to prevent the release of radiation.

Japanese authorities have been injecting seawater as a coolant of last resort, and advising nearby residents to stay inside to avoid contamination.

"It's like a horror movie," said 49-year-old Kyoko Nambu as she stood on a hillside overlooking her ruined hometown of Soma, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the plant. "Our house is gone and now they are telling us to stay indoors.

"We can see the damage to our houses, but radiation? ... We have no idea what is happening. I am so scared."

Earlier blasts Monday and Saturday injured 15 workers and military personnel and exposed up to 190 people to elevated radiation. Officials said those explosions had been linked to the venting of buildups of steam at two of the troubled reactors and that they had not compromised their inner containers.

The nuclear woes compounded challenges already faced by the Tokyo government as it dealt with twin disasters that flattened entire communities and left as many as 10,000 or more dead.

It also raised global concerns about the safety of nuclear power at a time when it has seen a resurgence as an alternative to fossil fuels.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said the Japanese government has asked the agency to send experts to help.

Japan's meteorological agency reported one good sign. It said the prevailing wind in the area of the stricken plant was heading east into the Pacific, which would help carry away any radiation.

International aid teams ready for Japan Play Video Reuters – International aid teams ready for Japan

___

Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo. Associated Press writers Tim Sullivan in Bangkok contributed to this report.


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Japan feeds more money to banks as stocks slump


Residents make their way past buildings devastated by Friday's massive quake and tsunami, at Kesennuma, northeastern Japan, on Tuesday March 15, 2011. AP – Residents make their way past buildings devastated by Friday's massive quake and tsunami, at Kesennuma, …

TOKYO – Japan's central bank pumped billions more into the financial system Tuesday to quell fears that the country's banks could be overwhelmed by the impact of the massive earthquake and tsunami. Stocks slumped as a nuclear crisis escalated.

Two cash injections totaling 8 trillion yen ($98 billion) came a day after the Bank of Japan fed a record 15 trillion yen ($184 billion) into money markets and eased monetary policy to support the economy in the aftermath of Friday's 8.9 magnitude quake that has killed thousands.

The injections have helped stabilize currency markets. But stock markets dived for a second day as investors unloaded assets amid escalating worries of a nuclear crisis.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average slid as much as 14 percent after Prime Minister Naoto Kan warned residents near a damaged nuclear power plant in tsunami-ravaged northeastern Japan to stay inside or risk getting radiation sickness. By mid afternoon, the index was down about 9 percent.

Radiation is leaking from damaged reactors at the crippled plant in a dramatic escalation of the 4-day-old catastrophe. Kan said there is dangers of more leaks and told people living within 19 miles (30 kilometers) of the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex to stay indoors.

The Bank of Japan has moved quickly to try to keep financial markets calm. By flooding the banking system with cash, it hopes banks will continue lending money and meet the likely surge in demand for post-earthquake funds.

Analysts say Japan can tap its vast bond market to help pay for reconstruction in the coastal regions shattered by the tsunami that the quake spawned. But it will add to strains on the national finances. The country is saddled with massive debt that, at 200 percent of gross domestic product, is the biggest among developed nations.

"Japan will be poorer, for this disaster," said Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland. "Rebuilding will run down Japan's financial wealth."

The central bank's nine-member policy board also voted unanimously Monday to ease monetary policy. It will expand the size of an existing program to buy assets — such as government and corporate bonds — by 5 trillion yen to 40 trillion yen ($486.4 billion). It kept its key interest rate at virtually zero.

Credit Suisse economist Hiromichi Shirakawa and analysts at Barclays Capital estimated the damage at up to 15 trillion yen ($183 billion) — about 3 percent of gross domestic product. Other experts warned the economy will shrink for two straight quarters.

That represents a painful blow for Japan which lost its place as the world's No. 2 economy to China last year. The Japanese economy has been ailing for two decades, barely managing to eke out weak growth between slowdowns. It is saddled with a massive public debt that, at 200 percent of GDP, is the biggest among industrialized nations.

Morici said the nuclear crisis combined with the twin hit from the quake and tsunami could make Japan more vulnerable than it was in the past.

"The double whammy has the potential to keep the Japanese economy shut down longer and globalization offers Japan's export customers alternatives they might not have enjoyed a decade or two ago," he said. "Hyundai and Ford now are good substitutes for Toyota's cars, and even more so, Caterpillar tractors made in China can replace Komatsu's land movers."

The four most severely affected prefectures (states) in the northeast — Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima and Ibaraki — account for about 6 percent of Japan's economy.

Power supply has failed in the worst affected areas and power rationing may be imposed in other regions. Ports are closed, steel plants have stopped producing, and several major oil refineries have shut down. Getting manufacturing up and working again may be a bigger challenge than in the catastrophic 1995 Kobe earthquake because a larger area is affected.

In the northeastern city of Sendai, the railway station stood deserted. State television footage showed ceilings and walkways collapsed onto the platforms, walls warped and leaning onto the tracks. There was no indication when the station and lines running through could be repaired and operating again.

The northeast is also a major center for car production, with a myriad of parts suppliers and a network of roads and ports for efficient shipments. Toyota Motor Corp said it would suspend manufacturing at its domestic plants through Wednesday — a production loss of 40,000 cars. Other manufacturers including Sony Corp. and Honda Motor Co. were also forced to halt production.

"There is no way to get our products out, even if we make them, with the roads and distribution system damaged," said Honda Motor Co. spokeswoman Natsuno Asanuma.

The aftermath is being felt nationwide.

Four nuclear plants were damaged in the temblors, causing widespread power shortages. Trains in Tokyo, the nation's capital, usually run like clockwork. But are running on a reduced schedule or stopped entirely, preventing millions of commuters from reaching workplaces.

Billions of dollars are expected to be needed to rebuild homes, roads and other infrastructure requiring public spending that will benefit construction companies but add to the national debt.

The economy will eventually get a boost from reconstruction but "this does not mean that Japan is better off," said Julian Jessop, chief international economist at Capital Economics in London. It's a quirk of accounting that destruction of assets is not counted as a reduction in the economy but replacement of those assets boosts economic activity, he said.

Credit Suisse's Shirakawa said in a report the direct economic losses such as property destruction could total 6 trillion yen ($73 billion) to 7 trillion yen. Indirect losses such as lost production will probably be higher.

Other estimates are more pessimistic.

"At the end of the day, this will probably cost a few hundred billion dollars," said Song Seng Wun, economist with CIMB-GK Research in Singapore. "It's going to be a big strain on public finances."

___

Associated Press Writer Alex Kennedy in Singapore and AP Business Writer Yuri Kageyama contributed to this report.


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Nuclear crisis whacks stocks in Japan, across Asia


A man reacts while looking at a stock price board in Tokyo Monday, March 14, 2011 as the Tokyo stock market plunged on its first business day after an AP – A man reacts while looking at a stock price board in Tokyo Monday, March 14, 2011 as the Tokyo stock …

BANGKOK – Japan's Nikkei stock index nose-dived more than 12 percent Tuesday as the earthquake-shattered country faced an unfolding nuclear crisis after a radiation leak was detected at a crippled power plant. Other Asian markets also tumbled.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average sank a staggering 1,201.2 points, or 12.5 percent, to 8,422.21 in afternoon trading, extending losses of 6 percent Monday — the first trading day since a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the northeastern coast, washing away towns and killing more than 10,000 people.

The broader Topix lost 13 percent, while other Asian markets were sharply down, suffering a ripple effect.

The stock sell-off hit nearly every business sector, with electric companies under intense pressure again. The Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the crippled nuclear plant, was overwhelmed with sell orders and had yet to trade. Toshiba Corp., a maker of nuclear power plants, was also untraded.

Other companies with nuclear power-related businesses faced a second day of free-falling losses. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries tumbled 19 percent, Kobe Steel Ltd. dived 17 percent, and Hitachi Ltd. shed 8.5 percent. Cosmo Oil, whose refinery caught fire after the quake, slid by 18 percent.

Car makers declined partly because quake-stricken northeastern Japan is a major center for auto production, complete with a myriad of parts suppliers and a network of roads and ports for efficient distribution.

Major vehicle manufactures halted production after the quake, and their shares continued to capsize. Toyota Motor Corp., the world's largest automaker, fell 11 percent. Honda lost 7.4 percent and Nissan dropped 10.2 percent. Mitsubishi Motors Corp. lost 14.4 percent and truck-maker Isuzu Motors Ltd. plunged 8.6 percent.

Fears about the safety of nuclear power weighed on the shares of companies involved in uranium mining. Energy Resources of Australia Ltd., one of the world's largest uranium producers, fell 13.2 percent in Sydney.

Even the rare stocks that did well Monday — industrial and materials companies, which gained due to expectations that they would benefit when Japan rebuilds — tumbled Tuesday.

Japanese construction company Kajima Corp. dropped 19 percent and Nishimatsu Construction Co. Ltd. skidded 27.2 percent. Analysts said that while the Japanese economy remained virtually shut down, companies in China and elsewhere could fill the void.

Throughout Asia, investors fled stocks as the crisis in the world's No. 3 economy seemed only to escalate. South Korea's Kospi was down 3.4 percent to 1,903.21, and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 2.7 percent to 4,500.20.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index slumped 3.8 percent to 22,449.60, and mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index lost 2.1 percent to 2,874.63.

On Wall Street Monday, concerns over the economic impact of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan led to a broad sell-off. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 51.24, or 0.4 percent, to 11,993.16.

The broader S&P index fell 7.89 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,296.39. Nine out of the 10 sectors that make up the Standard and Poor's 500 index lost ground. Utilities companies fell 1.4 percent, the most of any group.

The Nasdaq composite dipped 14.64, or 0.5 percent, to 2,700.97.

Benchmark crude for April delivery dropped $1.90 to $99.29 a barrel on the New York Mercantile exchange. The contract added 3 cents to settle at $101.19 on Monday on the Nymex.

The dollar was worth 81.52 Japanese yen Tuesday, down from 81.88 yen late Friday. Major natural disasters like earthquakes tends to bolster the yen because investors expect the Japanese public and insurance companies to buy back their home currency in order to fund the country's reconstruction, increasing demand for the yen.


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Japan's blasts cast doubt on nuclear renaissance


Reassessing Energy Stocks Play Video CNBC – Reassessing Energy Stocks

PARIS – Switzerland freezes plans to build new nuclear plants, Germany raises questions about its nuclear future, and opposition to atomic reactor construction mounts from Turkey to South Africa.

Will explosions and other worries at a tsunami-stricken Japanese nuclear plant halt what has come to be known as the nuclear renaissance?

Fears about nuclear safety that took a generation to overcome after the accidents at Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island are resurfacing around the globe. They are casting new doubt on a controversial energy source that has seen a resurgence in recent years, amid worries over volatile oil prices and global warming.

"Europe has to wake up from its Sleeping Beauty slumber" about nuclear safety, Austria's Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich told reporters in Brussels. He suggested an EU-wide stress test for nuclear plants, much like European banks have been tested for their ability to cope with financial shocks.

Yet some experts and officials say those fears are overblown, given the exceptional nature of Japan's earthquake and ensuing tsunami. The Japanese blasts may slow the push for more nuclear plants, but appear unlikely to stop it, given the world's fast-growing energy needs.

The governments of Russia, China and Poland said they are sticking to plans to build more reactors. Even earthquake-prone Chile says it won't discard a nuclear option. Spain warned against hasty decisions.

Japan's nuclear plant explosions come as the U.S. government looks to expand its nuclear energy industry by offering companies tens of billions in financial backing. Administration officials said the U.S. would seek lessons from the Japanese crisis but said the events in Japan would not diminish the United States commitment to nuclear power.

"It remains a part of the president's overall energy plan," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "When we talk about reaching a clean energy standard, it is a vital part of that."

In Atlanta, the CEO of Southern Co. said Monday he does not expect Japan's problems to delay construction of two more nuclear reactors in Georgia, at the first nuclear plant in the United States to break ground in a generation.

Elsewhere, governments began questioning their vision of a nuclear-energized future amid rising threats of a meltdown at one Japanese reactor.

Switzerland ordered a freeze on new plants or replacements "until safety standards have been carefully reviewed and if necessary adapted," Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said. The decision put on hold the construction of nuclear power stations at three sites approved by Swiss regulatory authorities.

Switzerland now has five nuclear power reactors that produce about 40 percent of the country's energy needs. It also has nuclear research reactors.

In Germany, the government said it is suspending for three months a decision to extend the life of its nuclear power plants. That also means that two older nuclear power plants will be taken off the grid shortly — at least for now — pending a full safety investigation, Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters.

A previous government decided to shut all 17 German nuclear plants, but Merkel's administration last year moved to extend their lives by an average 12 years.

"The pictures from Japan show us that nothing, even the worst, is unthinkable," EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told Germany's Deutschlandfunk radio.

The European Union called a meeting Tuesday of nuclear safety authorities to assess Europe's preparedness in case of a nuclear emergency.

Individual EU members including Britain, Bulgaria and Finland also urged a nuclear safety review.

Meanwhile, opposition voices rose up in Turkey and Sweden to renounce or scale back governments' nuclear expansion plans. And anti-nuclear groups staged rallies around France, the world's most nuclear-dependent country, as the government sought to reassure the public that the risks remain minimal.

Environmental group Earthlife Africa said it wants South Africa, the only African country with an existing nuclear plant, to follow Germany's example. But South African government officials want to expand nuclear power.

German popular opinion continues to favor non-nuclear sources of energy. But elsewhere in Europe, people have become increasingly open to using nuclear power as memories fade of the accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine — the world's worst nuclear accident, 25 years ago next month. Eastern Europe sees nuclear energy as a way of gaining a measure of independence from Russia's burgeoning gas and oil empire.

Statistics from the International Atomic Energy Agency show there are 442 nuclear reactors in operation worldwide, with 65 new facilities under construction. Construction last year was started on 14 new reactors — in China, Russia, India, Japan and Brazil. In 2005, in comparison, ground was broken for only three reactors.

Boosters have argued that new-design reactors pose fewer safety risks, and that nuclear-produced electricity doesn't emit the pollution that causes global warming.

Even as Japan's damaged reactors were beginning to deteriorate Friday, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera told state television that "the new so-called smart technologies, are technologies that are absolutely earthquake-proof in terms of security. And that's why we are studying this option, because Chile can't categorically reject any alternative in energy generation."

Pinera is planning to sign a nuclear energy accord with the U.S. during President Barack Obama's visit to Santiago next week.

The head of the Ukrainian Chernobyl Union called for setting up nuclear safety squads of professionals trained to respond to nuclear accidents who could be rapidly dispatched to any accident site.

"Nuclear accidents will continue happening as nuclear energy develops," Yuri Andreyev told the AP.

Experts said it was too early to evaluate all the consequences of the Japanese explosions.

"This is a massive earthquake, followed by a massive tsunami," said Physics Prof. Paddy Regan of the University of Surrey at Guildford. "Imagine if this would have been next to a chemical plant or a gas plant that would have exploded. ... There is a risk here but we have to keep the fears rational."

___

Heilprin reported from Bern, Switzerland. Geir Moulson and Juergen Baetz in Berlin, George Jahn in Vienna, Raf Casert and Gabriele Steinhauser in Brussels, Maria Danilova in Kiev, Donna Bryson in Johannesburg, Federico Quilodran in Santiago, Chile, contributed to this report.


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Air and ground: Gadhafi, rebels each claim control


Libyan students attend  a  pro-Gadhafi  rally organized in the parking lot of the Rixos hotel where the foreign press is staying in Tripoli, Libya, Mo AP – Libyan students attend a pro-Gadhafi rally organized in the parking lot of the Rixos hotel where the …

TOBRUK, Libya – Moammar Gadhafi's warplanes, artillery and mortar shells can control huge swaths of territory by day, including oil ports, rebel supply routes and even hostile towns. Rebels say anti-government forces can still return in darkness to take advantage of Gadhafi's own thin supply lines and overstretched ground troops.

The eastern port city of Brega has gone back and forth with the setting of the sun in recent days and is key to the battle for Libya's oil centers — so key that both sides claimed control of it nearly simultaneously on Monday. The regime offensive appears to be hampered by a lack of manpower: They can drive out rebels with barrages, but not necessarily hold the territory.

Rebels, on the other hand, didn't dare come out in the open on Monday in Brega, with a spokesman saying they were taking cover instead in the industrial oil area where they believed Gadhafi forces wouldn't fire.

Brega and the city of Ajdabiya about 35 miles (70 kilometers) away again came under government bombardment on Monday, freshly exposing their importance as key crossroads for rebel supply lines, a main weakness in the Libyan region that contains most of its oil wealth. To get ammunition, reinforcements and arms to the front, they must drive along open desert highways, exposed to airstrikes. Gadhafi warplanes struck at least three targets Monday morning in Ajdabiya, missing a weapons storage site but hitting rebel fighters at a checkpoint in an attempt to stop supplies, rebels said.

Oil installations — and the ports that allow Libyan crude exports — are just as key as supply lines, and so the government and rebels both went out of their way late Monday to claim victory in Brega at nearly the same time, with a state television reporter in the town going so far as to show the hour on his watch.

Production has been cut drastically since fighting began and new questions arose Monday about whether the OPEC member was still exporting crude at all. Marsa al-Harigah, the last major oil port firmly under rebel control, is not expecting another tanker for a month, said Rajab Sahnoun, a top executive with the Arabian Gulf Oil Co., and its two functioning storage tanks could be full soon, forcing a production shutdown.

The rebels have pleaded for the West to impose a no-fly zone. France and Britain stepped up calls Monday for other world powers to isolate Gadhafi, but other countries, including the United States, have been cautious about backing the rebels.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said NATO was drawing up contingency plans for a no-fly zone.

"Every day Gadhafi is brutalizing his own people. Time is of the essence," Cameron told the parliament in London. "There should be no let up in the pressure we put on this regime."

Meanwhile, fighting raged in Brega, said Abdul-Bari Zwei, a rebel spokesman. He said the rebels controlled the neighborhoods, but Gadhafi forces were pounding them with bombs from the air, land and sea. He said the rebels were hiding in parts of the industrial oil area, believing Gadhafi forces would hold fire there.

"They won't fire at the fuel trucks, they (Gadhafi's forces) need them," said Zwei.

Libya's east is home to roughly 70 to 75 percent of the country's reserves — the largest in Africa — and Gadhafi has every reason to try to regain control of the region quickly.

Government troops have scored victories using overpowering bombardments with artillery, tanks, warplanes and warships. Such an assault drove rebel fighters out of the oil port of Ras Lanouf several days ago.

After fleeing the bombardment Sunday, the rebels then pushed back into Brega in the evening and claimed to have captured dozens of fighters from Gadhafi's elite Khamis Brigade.

On Monday, about 2,000 rebel fighters — mainly members of a special commando unit that defected to the opposition — held Brega's residential district, while pro-Gadhafi troops controlled the industrial oil facilities some distance away, said Zwei. Rebel fighters were searching the residential area for any remaining Gadhafi troops.

Libyan state TV showed images Monday from Brega's port, claiming that it was in government control and at peace. The announcer urged Russia, China and India to invest in Libya's oil sector.

Western Libya remains Gadhafi's stronghold, centered on Tripoli where his militiamen have crushed any attempts at an uprising. But since early on in the revolt, which began Feb. 15, several cities in the west fell into rebel hands. Regime forces on Friday took back the most crucial of those cities, Zawiya, which lies on the capital's doorstep, after a reportedly bloody and destructive week-long siege.

On Monday, pro-Gadhafi forces launched an attempt to take another, nearby town, Zwara, 70 miles (110 kilometers) west of Tripoli, close to the Tunisian border.

Government troops surrounded the town of 45,000 and bombarded it with tanks and artillery for hours starting in the morning, several residents said. At least four rebel fighters were killed in the barrage, said one resident, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution against him. The sound of gunfire could be heard over the telephone as he spoke.

One rebel fighter, Shukri Nael, said he helped fend off an assault at a rebel checkpoint at one of the entrances to the city.

"I don't care how far the Gadhafi forces went east or how many cities they take back — this is a chance for me to die for this country and become a martyr," he said.

On Sunday, regime forces began shelling the most significant rebel-held city in the west — Misrata, Libya's third largest city, 125 miles (200 kilometers) southeast of Tripoli.

Troops on the city's outskirts and on ships off shore had sealed the city, cutting off water pipes to many of its neighborhoods and preventing water tankers from reaching the residents, said a local doctor and other residents. Residents were conserving existing water and food supplies, he said.

Opposition fighters were building sandbag fortifications and other defenses in anticipation that Gadhafi troops, positioned at an air base and military college about six miles (10 kilometers) from the city could launch an assault.

On Monday morning, a barrage of shelling slammed into houses on the edge of the city, said one resident. But by the afternoon the guns fell silent.

"There are divisions inside the (pro-Gadhafi) militia," said one rebel fighter, citing reports from fellow fighters closest to the government troops. "Some of the forces don't want to enter the town and attack civilians. Others want to attack the city, Others want to join the rebels. Those wanting to attack the town are attacking the refuseniks."

The report of divisions could not be independently confirmed.

The opposition has been pleading with the West to impose a no-fly zone to help balance the scales with Gadhafi's forces. But for weeks, Western nations have been divided and hesitant on the move.

France and Britain were making an accelerated push Monday for a no-fly zone as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top diplomats from the G-8 group of prominent world economies were gathering in Paris for a previously planned foreign ministers meeting. Other countries, including the United States, have been more cautious.

___

Karam reported from Cairo. Hadeel al-Shalchi in Tripoli contributed to this report.


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