Page last updated at 00:01 GMT, Thursday, 17 March 2011

As it happened: Japan earthquake on Wednesday

  • Japan's Emperor Akihito has said he is "deeply worried" about the crisis his country is facing following last Friday's earthquake and tsunami
  • Technicians temporarily abandoned the quake-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant because of a spike in radiation levels
  • The number of confirmed dead and missing now stands at nearly 13,000
  • About 450,000 people have been staying in temporary shelters. Snow has been reported in affected areas - with more freezing weather forecast
  • Live page reporters: Stephanie Holmes, Aidan Lewis, Matthew Davis, Daniel Nasaw, Yaroslav Lukov, Anna Jones, Olivia Lang and David Gritten
  • All times in GMT

2359That concludes our live coverage for Wednesday. Join us shortly for our reporting on Thursday's events.

2253 Channel 4's Jon Snow tweets: "Have reached Tokyo Nareta airport in 15 mins less than usual no rush hour sadly. Strong head winds blowing to sea sunny. Radiation?"

2348It should be noted that the Tokyo Electric Power Company has a poor record on revealing the extent of problems at its nuclear facilities. In 2002, senior executives were forced to resign after the government disclosed that they had covered up a large series of cracks and other damage to reactors. In 2006, the firm admitted it had been falsifying data about coolant materials in its plants.

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2340Jeffrey in Kawanehon, Japan writes: "It's amazing how foreign governments are inflaming fears in order to score political brownie points. It's also amazing how many fair-weather friends Japan has in the current expat community. Japan has been good to me and I'm staying to help."

2336Kuni Yogo, a former nuclear power planner at Japan's Science and Technology Agency tells the New York Times that the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the troubled nuclear plant, "try to disclose only what they think is necessary, while the media, which has an anti-nuclear tendency, acts hysterically, which leads the government and Tepco to not offer more information".

2332The Guardian reports that Greg Jaczko, the chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, was pressed on his assertion in Congress earlier that there was no water remaining in reactor 4's spent fuel storage pool, which was subsequently denied by Japanese officials. He told reporters: "The information I have is coming from staff people in Tokyo who are interfacing with their Japanese counterparts. I've confirmed that their information is reliable." Mr Jaczko nevertheless added: "It is my great hope that the information is not accurate."

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2323John in Nerimaku, Tokyo writes: "We go to bed not knowing what the morning will bring. We wake up hoping that nothing more serious is happening at the nuclear plant. This stress is beginning to affect everyone - my children too."

2319The level of radiation detected at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has fallen steadily over the past 12 hours, an official at Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has said, according to the Reuters news agency. A level of 752 microsieverts per hour was recorded at the plant's main gate at 1700 on Wednesday (0800 GMT), said Tetsuo Ohmura. The monitoring point was then changed to the plant's west gate and readings were taken every 30 minutes, he said. At 0500 on Thursday (2000 GMT on Wednesday), the reading was 338 microsieverts per hour. That level is still much higher than it should be, but is not dangerous, Mr Ohmura added.

2311 Steve Nagata tweets: "Woke up feeling cold. Just saw a shot on tv of firefighters in the quake area walking with heavy snow. I think I can take the chill in Tokyo."

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2308Harry in Nagoya, Japan writes: "There is fear spreading among the Japanese and foreigners, as day by day the supermarkets empty. I am angry at the lack of proper information. The local media and people persist in their idea that there is no need for panic while the western media and foreign embassies insist that their citizens should go back to their respective countries."

2303An additional 28,000 people have been evacuated from areas near the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant to avoid possible exposure to radiation, NHK television reports. But many temporary shelters in the 31 municipalities in Fukushima prefecture were too overcrowded to cope with the influx and had to turn them away. The displaced are now heading to neighbouring prefectures.

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2259Martin in Tokyo writes: "There does seem to be a lot of panic, but it's not here in Tokyo. There is tension and obviuosly worry. However people are going about their business as normal."

2255 The IAEA has released information about the temperature of the water in the spent fuel storage pools inside reactors 4, 5 and 6 at Fukushima Daiichi. Spent fuel that has been removed from a nuclear reactor generates intense heat and the water is usually kept below 25C. The IAEA says that the temperature of the pool at reactor 4 was 84C on Tuesday morning. On Wednesday morning, it was 62.7C at reactor 5 and 60C at reactor 6. Current reports say the pools at both reactors 3 and 4 are boiling. Reactor 4's pool may even be dry.

2253A spokesman from the British government confirmed that a Cobra emergency response committee meeting was held on Wednesday evening to discuss the situation in Japan. It was described as an opportunity for departments and the goverment's science adviser to update the meeting on the latest situation.

2244 Mark MacKinnon of the Globe and Mail tweets: "More alarming warnings from embassies in Tokyo suggesting citizens leave. Not bc of radiation, but bc supplies of food, fuel running low."

2242The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, has said he will be travelling to Japan as soon as possible to get the latest information on the situation.

2239Ginette Sainfort, who was rescued six days after Haiti's earthquake in January 2010, sent a message of support to Japan. "God is great. We Haitians dealt with all the difficulties, all the problems with courage. They too (the Japanese) have to realise that these problems cannot handicap their lives. Today I feel sad to see once more the effects of this sinister thing. I know that the Japanese people are suffering enormously and I am ready to say to tell them have courage, courage."

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2231John Luke from Nerimaku, Tokyo writes: "Remember, many people are wearing masks now because it's 'hay-fever season' NOT because they are worried about radiation. Your report gives the impression people are wearing masks because of fear. Please correct this."

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2226Nick Bikkal from Tokyo writes: "I live within Tokyo city limits. I keep reading of radiation coming into the city from the plant 200 km north of us. Technically NE of the city. Embassies are urging their citizens to leave the city and country. How can radioactivity head our way when for the last few days all the weather reports have said the wind keeps blowing from the west or NW? The official weather reports back up my statement. Either I'm still underinformed or am being misinformed. Family and friends abroad are in a panic over me and my family but I say there is an attempt to confuse and create panic. It's a media tactic to keep people glued to them. I see little support given to those working hard to help, clean up & rescue. Instead of running away people should give what they can to those in need."

2218The BBC Damian Grammaticas in Sendai reports that a bowling alley is being used as a mortuary, as people continue to search for their loved ones. One man came looking for his wife, who disappeared in the tsunami. He could not find her name on the list of the dead, or the survivors.

2214Japanese auto companies have extended shutdowns of car-assembly plants affected by the earthquake and tsunami, reports the Associated Press. However, some parts factories in Japan plan to resume production later this week.

2201There is some anxiety at US military bases in Japan about exposure to radiation, Reuters reports. On a Facebook page for US Naval Forces Japan, some Americans voiced concern. One living in Atsugi, Japan, where radiation was detected at a naval base, asked about a potential evacuation. "Having a toddler and being pregnant, I need to know if they can get us going," wrote 21-year-old Chelsea Origer.

2156The yen has continued to surge in early Asian trade, hitting 76.52 against the dollar, reports AFP news agency.

2153Dominic Jones, who's originally from Cornwall, lectures at a university in Sendai. He told the BBC his family are packing their bags: "Amazingly, outside our apartment they're building a new house and the builders came back and started building yesterday, which I thought was a bit crazy. And the Post Office have come round and delivered some parcels. So there is some kind of normality. But I think especially the foreign nationals are very worried about the nuclear situation. And as we have two young children, we've decided that it's best for the children to move back to England temporarily."

2148Many airlines have suspended flights to Japan while at Tokyo's Haneda airport there are large crowds trying to get out of the capital. One man at the airport told BBC World Service: "My children are small and have their life ahead of them and I don't want them to be contaminated by the nuclear fallout."

2144Germany has advised citizens in Japan to consider leaving Tokyo joining a growing number of governments and businesses telling their people it may be safer elsewhere.

2142The Governor of the Fukushima region has criticised the official handling of the evacuation. Yuhei Sato said the people of Fukushima had reached the limits of "fear and anxiety". He said that if an evacuation was necessary, it would be difficult. "How do we move people, transport people?" he said. He said they had secured the "minimum food" but that daily supplies are all in shortage.

2130 The BBC's Tim Wilcox tweets: "Just come off air - latest tremor shaking buildings around us - like sinister fairground ride - nothing compared to what last fri #japan"

2118This disaster must not be seen as proof that fossil fuels are a "safe" alternative to nuclear power, writes George Monbiot in the Guardian. "While nuclear causes calamities when it goes wrong, coal causes calamities when it goes right, and coal goes right a lot more often than nuclear goes wrong.

2116The head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commision, Gregory Jaczko, has told lawmakers that he strongly believes the US could "mitigate" the impact of a nuclear crisis similar to the one unfolding in Japan, Reuters reports.

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2110Stuart Blackburn from Osaka writes: "Today, I and other Britons were contacted by the foreign office, and asked to refer to a report from the government's Chief Science Officer for advice. His conclusion was plain; even if the reactors meltdown, we would be in no danger. There is no reason to leave. For me, this was the clear, expert opinion I had been waiting for. I shall not leave Japan. I began to spread the word to friends. Until, that is, I read an article from the New York Times. The reactor blasts have exposed storage pools of spent fuel to the outside. With the cooling systems down, the water covering the fuel is boiling away, and engineers are unable to conduct repairs. Should the water evaporate away, the spent rods could ignite, sending huge volumes of radioisotopes into the air. 100 rapid deaths within 500 miles. Over 100,000 deaths over time. Of course, this is a worse-case scenario. But the once quenched debate is re-ignited. Should we stay? For now, we can only wait, and talk."

2057Andreas Persbo, director of the London-based Verification Research, Training and Information Centre, has told Bloomberg that although Japan is legally obliged to provide information to the IAEA and its member states, officials in Tokyo simply may not be able to do so. "In a crisis situation, the only ones that really know what is going on are at the site and they don't have time to pick up the telephone," he explained.

2046Japan's foreign ministry has asked foreign diplomats and government officials to remain calm and "accurately convey information provided by Japanese authorities concerning the plant", according to NHK television.

2038Experts warn that if radiation levels become too high, workers at the plant would not only be prevented from approaching reactor 4's spent fuel pond, but also the adjacent reactors, which also have malfunctioning cooling systems.

2035US officials have concluded that the Japanese warnings have been insufficient, and that, deliberately or not, they have understated the potential threat of what is taking place inside the nuclear facility, according to the New York Times. Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, earlier said he believed that all the water in the spent fuel pool at reactor 4 had boiled dry, leaving fuel rods stored there exposed. "We believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures," he told a Congressional committee.

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2031Yumi from London writes: "It appears the Japanese press have not been reporting all the information that has been made available to the rest of the world. Having contacted family in Tokyo, Ibaragi and Tochigi; asking them to come and stay in London - they told us that Japan was completely safe, that radiation levels were lower than those produced by an X-ray. It appears the vast majority of people in Tokyo are oblivious to the "mass exodus" and say the running of public transport and open businesses are proof that everything is normal. My only hope is that the Japanese government become a little more candid so that those with an option to leave Japan can do so soon."

2027Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has said it is also concerned about the spent fuel storage pool inside the building housing reactor 3 at Fukushima Daiichi. The pools at both reactors 3 and 4 are reportedly boiling - there may not even be any water left in reactor 4's pool - and unless the spent fuel rods are cooled down, they could emit large quantities radiation. Radioactive steam was earlier said to be coming from reactor 3's pool. If cooling operations did not proceed well, the situation would "reach a critical stage in a couple of days", an agency official told the Kyodo news agency.

2019The US military will also fly one of its Global Hawk unmanned high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft over the site, possibly later on Thursday, to take photographs of the inside the building which houses reactor 4, Japanese government sources have told the Kyodo news agency. Global Hawks are already being used to survey the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

2014A special police van equipped with a water cannon - normally used to disperse rioters - meanwhile arrived at the power station early on Thursday. Tepco plans to use the cannon to spray water onto reactor 4's spent fuel storage pond. The cannon is thought to be strong enough to allow engineers to remain a safe distance from the complex and limit their exposure to radiation.

2010More on the power line being laid to the Fukushima Daiichi plant to help restore the reactor cooling systems: Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) spokesman Naoki Tsunoda has said it is almost complete, and that engineers plan to test it "as soon as possible", according to the Associated Press. Reviving the electric-powered pumps might allow the engineers to finaly cool the overheated reactors and spent fuel storage ponds.

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2002Dominic Jones from Sendai writes: "We are one of the lucky families with no cooking gas but shelter, heat, electricity, water and some food. We are not complaining, our hearts go out to our friends in temporary shelters in conditions much worse than ours. As my wife Eri and our two young children Lawrence, aged 7, and Michelle, aged 2, are asleep, The Clash's famous rock anthem of 'Should I stay or should I go?' plays in my head. We are emotionally worn out and torn between the urge to return to England to loved ones or stay with loved ones in Sendai. The main questions with no answers are: Will there be safe food and water in the coming days, weeks, months? Will the Fukushima nuclear situation improve? Will another earthquake come and knock out our "life line" as the Japanese call the combined utilities of water, power and communication. Now that the Foreign Office has advised Britons to leave northern Japan, I am making preparations to leave."

1956Earlier, the National Police Agency said it had confirmed 4,314 deaths in 12 prefectures, while 8,606 people remained unaccounted for in six prefectures. The Kyodo news agency reports that, in an unprecedented move, police in the badly affected provinces of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima have begun announcing the names, ages and addresses of people whose bodies have been recovered and identified based on their belongings alone, and not through a post-mortem examination.

1945Some 80,000 Japanese military personnel, police officers and firefighters have been deployed to areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami, the Kyodo news agency reports. The government has also mobilised 10,000 military reservists for the first time since Japan's Self-Defence Forces were established in 1954. About 420,000 displaced people are staying in more than 2,200 emergency shelters in eight prefectures.

1933Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has said he plans to fly to Japan on Thursday to get further information about the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The BBC's Kerry Skyring says Mr Amano is under pressure to demonstrate his agency is informed and able to communicate a clear picture of what is happening. "At daily press briefings he has been unable to explain why the information provided is so sketchy. As well as flying to Japan to what he says are high level meetings he is creating two teams who will also go there, one with expertise in nuclear safety, the other in radiation protection," our correspondent adds. Asked if the situation at Fukushima was now out of control, Mr Amano said: "It is very serious. The government and operators are doing everything they can. I hope their efforts will be successful."

1924US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said it is too early to say what effect the disasters in Japan could have on the US economy. "It's a hard judgement to make at this stage," he told a Congressional committee. "Our focus now is, as it should be, on trying to do as much as we can to help them mitigate the humanitarian costs of the catastrophe there, and we'll offer them every assistance we can."

1917BBC business reporter Mark Gregory says: "You would expect the currency of a country in crisis to fall in value. But the opposite has happened in Japan. During trading on Wednesday, a dollar was briefly worth less than 80 yen for the first time in 16 years. It is driven by the belief that Japanese firms will need to repatriate some of their vast overseas holdings to pay for reconstruction. This would mean swapping other currencies for yen, pushing the yen higher. This is bad news, though, for Japanese exporters. A high yen means their goods become less competitive in foreign markets just as they are reeling from the impact of an earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear emergency. A similar rise in the yen took place after the Kobe earthquake in 1995. Indeed, that was the last time the Japanese currency was valued near the current level."

1913The yen has hit a 16-year high versus the dollar on the currency markets, and is within a few cents of its highest level since World War II. A high currency value could make it harder for Japanese firms to compete in trade at a time when they are already having to cope with multiple emergencies.

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1906Jun Suzuki in Kashiwa-shi, Chiba, Japan writes: "Most of the people here are confused. Some Japanese people in the Tokyo area have also started to evacuate to the west. We really appreciate the rescue teams from other countries and rescue dogs from England. They are involved in a lot of activity for us right now. Really much appreciated.
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1900 Mr Jackzo said the high radiation levels would make it very difficult for workers to get near the reactor. "The doses they could experience would potentially be lethal doses in a very short period of time," he said, but added that the NRC's information on the situation was "very limited".

1859 More from NRC chair Gregory Jaczko. He told Congress: "We believe that secondary containment has been destroyed and there is no water in the spent fuel pool and we believe that radiation levels are extremely high which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures."

1854 He told the BBC: "We are informed by the science, and the science says that outside the 30km exclusion zone there should not be a threat to human health. If we thought there was a threat to human health of a severe level in Tokyo we would have much stronger advice at this stage, saying that people should leave with immediate effect. What we are saying is that people should consider leaving Tokyo and northern Japan."

1853 Mr Browne said trains and planes were available at the moment for people wishing to leave, but that "if the capacity needs to be increased by the British government we will do that".

1851 UK Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne has said the advice to British nationals is "not an order" but that given the situation "British nationals should consider leaving Tokyo and northern Japan and that the capacity exists for them to do so".

1843 White House spokesman Jay Carney has said the latest US evacuation order does not signal a lack of confidence in the Japanese authorities, AP reports. He said US officials were basing their recommendations on what they would do if such an incident happened at home, and that they had consulted with the Japanese government before issuing the advice.

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1841 Ross in Osaka, Japan writes: "The lack of details available - or what seemed misleading at the time - encouraged me to leave the Hitachi area on Monday with my wife and young child by car. Now we are staying with friends in the Osaka area and have access to internet etc. Despite this access to the media, I still feel in the dark. There are so many opinions and suggestions, different governments giving varying advice - nobody knows what is going to happen."
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1837 Gregory Jaczko, head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has said there is no water left in the spent fuel pool in reactor four, adding: "We believe that radiation levels are extremely high." Mr Jaczko was speaking to Congress in Washington and it was not immediately clear where his information had come from.

1832 The AP news agency is quoting Tepco as saying a new power line is almost ready which could end the crisis. The disruption of power to the pumps which send coolant through the reactors is what led to their overheating.

1825 Reuters reports that the quake has led to the shutdown of roughly one third of Japan's oil refining capacity of 4.5 million barrels per day. More than one fifth of its nuclear capacity, estimated at 49 gigawatts, is also believed to have been cut off.

1823 Our correspondent says there is also growing suspicion that the government and the Tokyo Electric Company (Tepco) are not telling the whole truth about the danger to the public. "We don't trust them," one young mother told him. "They want people to stay calm so they cover up the truth. We are all very afraid she said and we want to find a way to leave the country."

1821 The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Tokyo says there were hundreds of people in the main train station on Wednesday afternoon trying to board bullet trains heading south to Osaka and beyond. "Many were families with young children. They said they wanted to get far away from Tokyo and the radiation danger," he says.

1818 The US Environmental Protection Agency says it is increasing its monitoring of radiation along the western coast and Pacific territories, AP reports. However the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said it does not expect harmful levels to reach North America.

1810 The legal exposure limit for the workers was raised on Wednesday from 100 to 250 millisieverts, a move officials said was "unavoidable". Most individuals will absorb 6 millisieverts a year, AP reports.

1809 "I don't know any other way to say it, but this is like suicide fighters in a war." That's how Keiichi Nakagawa, associate professor of the Department of Radiology at the University of Tokyo Hospital, described the 180 workers battling flames at Fukushima.

1806 The British embassy reports that there is still "no real human health issue that people should be concerned about". But the statement continues: "Due to the evolving situation at the Fukushima nuclear facility and potential disruptions to the supply of goods, transport, communications, power and other infrastructure, British nationals in Tokyo and to the north of Tokyo should consider leaving the area."

1803 The UK is advising its citizens to consider leaving northern Japan, Reuters reports.

1759 The embassy says there are "numerous factors in the aftermath of the earthquake and Tsunami, including weather, wind direction and speed, and the nature of the reactor problem that affect the risk of radioactive contamination within this 50 mile (80 km) radius or the possibility of lower-level radioactive materials reaching greater distances."

1757 This is an extract is from the US embassy's advice to its citizens in Japan: "Consistent with the NRC [Nuclear Regulatory Commission] guidelines that apply to such a situation in the United States, we are recommending, as a precaution, that American citizens who live within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant evacuate the area or to take shelter indoors if safe evacuation is not practical."

1755 Earlier on Wednesday, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said the team had been sent home because they were not integrated into the wider rescue effort and had not brought their own logistical supplies.

1752 Mr Gray said the fault lay with the embassy. "The Japanese government issued a permit but we needed a letter from the British embassy to get the permit. They said because we weren't part of the British response, we're a non-government organisation, we couldn't have a letter."

1750 The International Rescue Corps has returned to the UK after it was sent back from Japan. Team leader Ray Gray said he was disappointed to be home so soon. "We flew over there with the intention of doing what I thought would have been a good job and a worthwhile job at the request of the Japanese government, and we've spent two days in an airport because we couldn't get a permit to get on the road from the British embassy."

1743 The Swiss foreign ministry said it would lay on charter flights if necessary to bring Swiss nationals home.

1742 Switzerland has also advised that its citizens leave north-east Japan and Tokyo. "At the moment, the development in the damaged nuclear facility is unpredictable and aftershocks are possible," said Swiss president Micheline Calmy-Rey.

1738 The US is advising its citizens living within 80km (50 miles) of Fukushima to evacuate or stay indoors.

1735 The Fukushima plant has a total of six nuclear reactors - all of which have been affected to varying degrees. Our annotated aerial picture shows the layout of the site and outlines what workers are facing at each reactor.

1729 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the US has to answer questions about "the costs and the risks" of nuclear power. "We get 20% of our energy right now in the United States from nuclear power," she said.

1726 Is Tepco becoming Japan's BP? BBC Business reporter Mark Gregory says that like BP's struggle with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Fukushima operator has found itself struggling to cope with a situation it never saw coming.

1720 Kyodo reports that the US military is to fly an unmanned plane over Fukushima, equipped with infrared sensors, to give an aerial view of what is going on.

1711 The BBC's Environment correspondent Richard Black says the fact that the focus is now on reactor four - which was not operating at the time of the quake - is a surprise. He has been looking at what might have happened in the reactor and what is being done to save it.

1706 A reminder that all our reports, analysis, graphics and explainers have been brought together in one place, on the BBC's Japan Earthquake special report page.

1702 Mr Ellmann tells the BBC World Service that the embassy is taking calls around the clock, "receiving more than 1000 calls a day". A 114-strong French rescue team "is now in Sendai helping the Japanes search and rescue teams", he adds.

1701 France is arranging for extra planes to take their nationals home from Japan on Thursday. Julian Ellmann, spokesman for the embassy in Tokyo, says the advice for French citizens in the capital is "to go the south of Japan, to Kyoto, for example, and for those who want to, come back to France".

1659 Another survivor, Yoichi Yamazaki, said it was so cold he was unable to sleep at night. "Nature, it seems, is in no mood to give the survivors of this disaster any respite," says our correspondent.

1657 Roy Wilshire, a member of the British team in Ofunato, said he had been struck by the response of local people. "We had a fire-fighter from the local fire service with us whose own home had been destroyed by the tsunami but he had been working every day since. When you see the people in the streets and you can see the devastation in their eyes, this is a major shock to them."

1654 The BBC's Rachel Harvey is in Ofunato, a port city devastated by the waves. "There is what looks like a house that is now sitting on its side - it has obviously been picked up by the tsunami, carried along and then just dumped. And everywhere you look there are cars that are on top of buildings or in the high levels of buildings, left there as the water surged through."

1651 IAEA chief Yukiya Amano told the press conference earlier on Wednesday it was "not the time to say things are out of control". He said the Fukushima operators were "doing the maximum to restore the safety of the reactor".

1649 On Tuesday, Mr Oettinger had said Japan was facing an "apocalypse".

1645 A spokeswoman for EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger has clarified his earlier remarks that "further catastrophic events" were expected. "He just wanted to share his concern and that he was really touched by all the images of people and the victims," said Marlene Holzner. "In this sense, he said that according to we have seen in the media, it seems that in the nuclear power plants at the moment we do not have technical control."

1640 The number of dead is expected to rise. The mayor of Ishinomaki said earlier than 10,000 people were thought to be missing in his town alone and a similar number was given in Minamisanriku.

1639 The figures show 8,606 people are missing and 2,282 have been injured.

1638 Latest official figures show 4,314 people are now known to have died in the disaster, AFP reports.

1635 The BBC's Mike Wooldridge says the snow now falling heavily on the quake-hit zone is complicating efforts to rescue any survivors, and to retrieve bodies.

1633 Dr Richard Wakeford of the University of Manchester in the UK says the real health risks come from the consequences of the quake and tsunami, not the radiation. "If this was a developing country, we'd have people going down in their hundreds and thousands with the likes of typhoid and cholera by now. The questions should be: Where is the sewage going? What is the state of the drinking water? If I were a public health official, that would be my principle concern," he told Reuters.

1630 The EU is urging member states to check food imports from Japan for radiation, AFP reports.

1629 Writing for NPR, David Ropeik, an instructor at Harvard University, says the fear of radiation could be worse than the radiation itself. "Nuclear radiation is dangerous. But so is worrying too much about lesser risks and not enough about bigger ones."

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1625 Robin, from Kamakura, Japan, writes: "One big problem is there is no guide to how long the evacuation will last, or how long there will be radiation affecting health in the worst scenario, or if things carry on as present."

1624 Mr Amano said: "At units four, five and six, which were not operating at the time of the earthquake, increased temperatures were observed at the spent fuel ponds. As far as radiation levels are concerned, those rates in Tokyo and other cities have increased very slightly but levels are not dangerous to human health."

1617 Mr Amano said he hoped to return from Japan with "firsthand information" and to address the issue of improving the flow of information to the IAEA, AP reports.

1615 IAEA chief Yukiya Amano has said the situations is "very serious". He has urged Japan to give more information, as he prepares to fly to the country./

1613 AFP reports that the Japanese yen rose to its highest levels against the dollar since 1995 on Wednesday.

1610 Risk modeling firm Eqecat has put the insured losses in Japan at between $12bn and $25bn, one of the costliest natural disasters in history, reports Reuters.

1606 We have a new gallery of images from Japan, showing some of the damage to Fukushima and the terrible conditions in which survivors and rescue workers have found themselves.

1605 Our news story now focuses on the Fukushima prefecture governor's criticism of the way the crisis has been handled. "Anxiety and anger felt by people have reached boiling point," said Yuhei Sato.

1558 The IAEA's Secretary General Yukiya Amano says he plans to go to Japan as early as Thursday, AP reports.

1556 Kyodo is reporting new plumes of smoke coming from the building housing reactor three.

1555 Fukushima's operators, Tepco, have said they want the military to make another attempt at dumping water from a helicopter onto the damaged reactor on 17 March.

1549 However, no US military personnel have shown signs of radiation poisoning, officials say.

1548 The Pentagon said some US air crews in Japan have been given iodine tablets as a precautionary measure.

1545 The Pentagon has announced that US forces must stay 50 miles (80km) away from the Fukushima reactor unless they have specific authorisation, Reuters reports.

1542 Here is the full statement from Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on its evacuation plans: "In connection with the situation that has developed in Japan, the decision has been taken to temporarily withdraw family members of staff at Russian establishments in Japan, including the embassy in Tokyo, general consulates, the trade mission and a number of others, from the country, provisionally on 18 March. At present, there will be no evacuation from Japan of staff at our diplomatic missions, as well as staff from other Russian state establishments."

1540 US Energy Secretary Steven Chu says the US is trying to send equipment to Japan to detect radiation levels in the ground. The department is also sending 39 personnel.

1535 French Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet has said "the worse case scenario is possible, and even probable, around the Fukushima plant," Reuters reports.

1529 More from the IAEA. Its latest briefing says that officials are preparing to spray water onto reactor four and possibly three. "Some debris on the ground from the 14 March explosion at Unit 3 may need to be removed before the spraying can begin."

1525 The EU's energy chief Guenther Oettinger has said that in the coming hours "there could be further catastrophic events, which could pose a threat to the lives of people on the island". He told the European Parliament the Fukushima nuclear site was "effectively out of control". "The cooling systems did not work, and as a result we are somewhere between a disaster and a major disaster."

1520 The IAEA says the Japanese authorities "have reported concerns about the condition of the spent nuclear fuel pool at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 and Unit 4". The pools are where the still-radioactive fuel rods are kept after they have completed their useful life in the reactor.

1516 Mr Chu said there were conflicting reports coming from Japan. The US teams who have travelled there are not only assisting the Japanese, but also ensuring that the US can secure its own measurements of what is happening, he said.

1515 US Energy Secretary Steven Chu has described events at the Fukushima plant as "appearing to be more serious than Three Mile Island". How much worse was not clear, he said, adding that it was very hard to tell how bad things were on the ground.

1512 The group's energy chief, Mike Childs, said the UK can meet all its energy needs through renewable sources and slashing waste. "New nuclear stations will inevitably starve these programmes of vital funds," he said. "We must invest in a cleaner, safer future. Nuclear power is a gamble we don't need to take."

1510 UK-based green campaign group Friends of the Earth have said the UK must now re-assess its plans to build more nuclear reactors.

1507 The Associated Press reports that the nuclear scare is proving to be a sales bonanza for traders in iodine, face masks and radiation meters. This is particularly the case in Russia, where people have painful memories of the false securities given in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. "It is a pity that certain businessmen are trying to profit on the situation," Olga Shekhovtseva, an Emergencies Ministry spokeswoman in Russia's Primorsky region, told AP.

1505 "They are a respected organisation and we want them to be able to help in many occasions in the future," Mr Hague said of IRC. "But I think sometimes it's convenient to blame our embassies for difficulties which have arisen in other ways."

1502 More on the British tream sent back from Japan. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has told the Foreign Affairs Select Committee that any aid groups arriving in Japan needed to be integrated with the wider relief operation or to have their own logistical support, but that the UK team had had neither.

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1500 Karin in Kawaba-mura, Gunma Prefecture, writes:"We felt a small after shock just now. Our village is thought to be fairly safe from earthquakes with firmer ground than the surrounding area but the epicentre of the earthquakes seem to be moving southward and my family and I cannot help but think that it might lead to the Tokai-oki Jishin (Tokai Area Earthquake that includes Tokyo) which had been feared for a while in Japan."
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1455 Russia will begin evacuating the families of its diplomats in Japan from 18 March, Reuters reports.

1454 "It is right that the Japanese Government remains in control of the situation and are making decisions which search and rescue operations to support," said the FCO statement. "It is not true that the IRC team's effort was delayed by British red tape."

1453 The UK's Foreign Office has denied that attempts by an International Rescue team to work in Japan were thwarted by red tape, as had been reported earlier. "The UK like all other countries involved is working to a co-ordinated plan set out by the Japanese Government and all support must adhere to this plan," it said in a statement.

1446 The mayor of Ishinomaki, in the devastated Miyagi prefecture, has told Kyodo the number of missing in that town alone is likely to reach 10,000.

1443 Dr Leivesley said what is needed now is "real, live information" to show the true radiation threat. "People in Tokyo won't believe what's being said. They know there's radiation. But if they've got a live map that shows the changes in radiation, they'll see that Tokyo is right on the absolute edge and nothing is going to give any individual in Tokyo a problem", she said.

1440 Dr Sally Leivesley, a risk management advisor, says huge amounts are being asked of the "very fatigued" workers battling fires at the Fukushima site. "They've been asked by the emperor to give their all, and they will," she tells BBC News.

1437 "The planned power plant was due to be completed by a Russian company over the next 10 years and would have produced around 4000 megawatts of power. Its development was eyed with suspicion by some countries as Venezuela already has vast reserves of oil and well developed hydroelectric," says our correspondent.

1435 The BBC's Sarah Grainger in Caracas says Venezuela is freezing its nuclear power plan in the wake of the crisis, after President Hugo Chavez said the earthquake and tsunami showed the risks and dangers of developing nuclear power were too great.

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1434 Tomoko Ozawa from Fukushima city writes: "My situation is still better than others. I cannot shower due to lack of water and it is impossible to get gasoline, but I am alive. The nuclear plants are very scary. If the wind direction changes, the radioactivity might reach Fukushima city. I heard places 30 minutes away from me are contaminated and that we should not touch any rainfall. I do not want to be exposed to radiation in any way. But, I cannot go to another place because there is no gasoline and the trains are not running. I will do what I can do. I just hope that there are no more problems with the nuclear plants."

1431 The UK Government's Chief Scientific Officer, Prof John Beddington, has sought to allay fears of radiation exposure. He told a press conference at the UK embassy in Tokyo: "What I would really re-emphasise is that this is very problematic for the area and the immediate vicinity and one has to have concerns for the people working there. Beyond that 20 or 30 kilometres, it's really not an issue for health," he says. The full and very interesting transcript is available on the embassy's website.

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1424 Simon, from Nagoya, Japan, writes: "I went to the immigration office in Nagoya today to get a re-entry visa, just in case. It took four hours. Many foreigners doing the same thing - readying themselves to leave. Supermarkets here are running low on water, toilet rolls and instant cup noodles. I am very much hoping the reactor problem is solved soon."

1423 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have vowed to press on with plans to co-build a £12.5bn ($20bn:14.3bn euro) nuclear power plant in Turkey. Mr Medvedev said the project was different from Japan in both age and the level of protection. "Even after what happened in Japan there will be no radical review of security measures as they are already sufficient," he said.

1420 "Some people are alive and can't say it, and those eager to know what's happening to their family cannot find information," said Mr Stoll. "I don't know how many of the phone numbers saved on your mobile phone you know by heart. How do you reach someone whose number you have in the mobile you lost ? These are the little details that make this much more complicated."

1418 Philippe Stoll from the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva says it is difficult to identify who has survived the earthquake and tsunami and who has been killed. "There are still places where there is no electricity, no phones, even satellite phones don't work," he tells the BBC World Service.

1414 The man told our correspondent it had been enormously comforting for him to see, for the first time in his life, Emperor Akihito addressing the country and him as a citizen.

1412 The BBC's Clive Myrie is at a shelter in a school in Yamagata, where people are beginning to bed down for another night. One man arriving at the centre told him he had not heard from his relatives since the quake hit on Friday.

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1409 Matt, from Osaka, Japan, writes: "Its a bit surreal here, as life is going on as normal but the tension is all under the surface. I work at a school in Ashiya and we had meetings all day but the TV was on all day too. When the emperor came on everything stopped but when we realized he wasn't delivering any substantial news or information everyone went back to the meeting. There is something remarkable about the Japanese ability to subside their worries and just get on with life."

1406 The BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo says the city is still relatively calm. The risk for the authorities is that fear and panic could cause more problems than the radiation itself, he says.

1404 The massive tsunami which powered over coastal areas of north-east Japan could have been a one-in-1,000-year event, say seismologists. BBC science reporter Paul Rincon has been looking at other historic waves which are thought to have hit Japan in centuries past.

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1359 Kevin Maxwell from Namegata City, Ibaraki Prefecture writes: "We've been following the news and weather reports very closely. The official word is that radiation in my area is still far below dangerous levels. However, the headmaster at the school where my wife teaches received a phone call from a professor he knows at one of Japan's foremost science universities. He was told that radiation of potentially harmful levels had been detected as far away as Yokohama, which is twice as far from Fukushima as we are. Right now I'm not sure what to believe."

1356 More from Russia's nuclear chief. He has just said the situation in Japan is playing out according to a worst-case scenario, Reuters reports.

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1355 Simon in Oita, Japan writes: "The sensationalist approach of some of the media is starting to grate - stoking fear to sell their product. The British Embassy have provided a very calm and rational analysis of the nuclear threat, along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology blog and other sources of knowledge (the BBC site has been a lifeline). The engineers at the plant are obviously facing a chain reaction of problems in the most logical manner and deserve our support."
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1352 Rosatom, Russia's state nuclear power corporation, has been working on building nuclear plants in India, Bulgaria, Venezuela and Turkey, AP reports.

1348 Russia's nuclear chief has said the country's overseas nuclear power construction business is likely to be affected by the disaster in Japan, Reuters reports.

1346Taiwan's leading telecom operator, Chunghwa Telecom, has said that two jointly owned undersea cables linking Japan and the US were damaged by Japan's earthquake. The cables serve as links for internet and voice services between Taiwan with the US, AFP reports.

1343 Finland held a radiation drill on Wednesday, but said it was planned a year ago and was unconnected to the Japan crisis. "We have a lot of disaster exercises all the time, each with their own theme," Hannele Aaltonen, a safety expert at Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, told AFP.

1339The BBC's Tim Wilcox has met many foreigners waiting to take flights out of Japan at Tokyo's Narita airport. Many, like Aiko - flying home to San Francisco - have resigned from their jobs to leave the country. "I think they understand that my mother is worried and that for the safety of myself, as well as those here that are not citizens of this country, evacuation is the best route," she said.

1331The European Parliament has held a minute of silence to pay respect to the victims of Japan's earthquake and tsunami, vowing to stand by the country. "In the name of the European Parliament I would like to offer condolences to the families of the victims and to the entire Japanese nation," said the president of the 27-nation assembly, Jerzy Buzek, AFP reports.

1324Japan has raised the maximum radiation dose allowed for nuclear workers, to 250 millisieverts from 100 millisieverts. It described the move as "unavoidable due to the circumstances", AP reports.

1318 Colin Ellis, of the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, has told the BBC that the long-term impact of the disaster in Japan on the international economy will be limited. "It's a net exporter rather than a net importer, so it doesn't suck in loads of demand from the rest of the world," he told the BBC World Service. "It will definitely impact in terms of Asian growth, but it may be partly about recalibrating away from the factories that are shut and the infastructure that has been destroyed to elsewhere in Asia."

1311The BBC's Clive Myrie, in a school that has been transformed into an evacuation centre in Yamagata, says people are being tested for radiation when they arrive. Local residents have been helping out - bringing spare blankets, fuel and water. But some of the supermarkets and convenience stores are already rationing their supplies and a sports centre down the road is getting ready to welcome a further 1,000 people.

1306The musician, artist and former wife of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, has been speaking to the BBC. "The Japanese people are very interesting in the sense that they are a peaceful people. You see that even in the videos when you're looking at it. You know there's no-one screaming and shouting. They're just very sad and expressing sadness, more sadness than anger I think," she told the World Service "Takeaway" programme.

1255Tsunami waves triggered by Japan's quake touched all of New Zealand's coasts , scientists say, with an 86cm wave recorded in the port of Lyttelton.

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1250 Luke in Nagoya, Japan, writes: "We've only felt maybe four of the earthquakes so far compared to Tokyo's hundreds. I feel relatively safe in Nagoya but have been gathering together an emergency supply bag in case of a big earthquake. The children that I teach seem oblivious to it all, which makes going to work relaxing!" Have Your Say

1242Stay with us for the latest updates - reports from our correspondents on the ground, expert analysis, and your reaction from around the world. You can contact us via email, text or twitter. We'll publish what we can.

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1235 William in Japan's Hyuga City writes: "There is calm, people are doing their best but even down here stores are running out of items that are useful in emergencies like flashlights, batteries and portable gas stoves."
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1232The BBC's Chris Hogg, in Tokyo, says that, as authorities struggle with various methods of cooling the nuclear plant, it feels like they are running out of options. Radiation levels in the capital, he says, are higher than normal but way below what would present a risk to human health. But still, he says, the country remains deeply uneasy.

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1227 Wojtek, in Tokyo, writes: "One of the biggest stress factors is to see many friends leaving Tokyo/Japan right now. I've been considering taking my family back home as well but we decided not to panic and we will stay."
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1223 Greg in Sendai writes: "Some friends and I have organised a group to liaise with local authorities and aid operatives and determine which places in the stricken areas are in the worst straits so we can try to deliver aid as quickly as possible to people who need it most."
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1219Thailand's health ministry says that from Thursday it will give free potassium iodide tablets to travellers flying to Tokyo from airports in Bangkok and Phuket, AP reports. The substance protects the thyroid gland against cancer by blocking absorption of radioactive iodine. Supplies in Japan are reportedly already running short.

1214Japanese police have been asked to send watercannon truck to hose down the nuclear plant, Japan's broadcaster NHK is reporting, according to AFP.

1209Commentators debate how quickly Japan's economy will recover. Eamonn Fingleton predicts in the New Republic that the disruption in the supply chain will hurt Japan while the Telegraph sees the slump in stocks as irrational. The BBC's See Also blogs brings together comment from across the web on the subject.

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1205 Marlei in Nagoya, Japan writes: "Concerns regarding the nuclear situation keep on growing here in Nagoya too. I have friends who have already left for Fukuoka (and possibly New Zealand). After all, despite reassurances from the media and the government that everything's OK for now; we also keep on hearing that things could get much worse - and now with news of more and more people leaving the country I am, too, wondering whether I should leave the country now. ."

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1200 Maho in Tokyo writes: "We're all scared, even in Tokyo. There has been a series of aftershocks and I feel like it never stops. But we, included people in Tokyo, are surviving. We are so sad, but we never give up." Have Your Say

1150China is to donate 10,000 tonnes of diesel and 10,000 tonnes of gasoline to Japan to help counter shortages, China's Xinhua news agency reports.

1145Tepco, which runs the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, has apologised on its website for an earlier incident in which "an abnormal noise began emanating from [a] pressure suppression chamber". This led to a temporary evacuation of workers. "We are aware of and sincerely apologize for the great distress and inconvenience this incident has caused to not just those inhabitants residing in the immediate vicinity but also society at large," Tepco says.

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1140Patrick Barta and Mark Whitehouse on The Wall Street Journal blogs: Japan's ability to contain and recover quickly from a nuclear disaster jolts the world's financial markets and economy. Stocks and commodities fell and currencies gyrated, amid the Japanese uncertainties."

1135Like other countries, France is to check its nuclear reactors following the problems in Japan. But President Nicolas Sarkozy's faith in the country's nuclear programme seems unshaken. "France has made the choice of nuclear energy, which is an essential element of its energy independence and the fight against greenhouse gases," he told his cabinet today. "This choice has been unseparable from an unfaltering undertaking to ensure a very high level of safety at our nuclear installations. I remain today convinced of the pertinence of these choices."

1130 Voice of America's Bureau Chief/Correspondent, Steve Herman tweets: "Very slight shaking here from the Kanto aftershock 4 mins. ago."

1125From the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC): "The Japanese Red Cross is telling us that Tokyo is safe, as far as nuclear radiation is concerned, and that foreigners can come in to travel."

1120Sato Takero from Sendai has given his reaction to the Japanese emperor's address: "I was born after World War Two," he says. "This is the first time for me to see him on TV or through the internet. It's something beyond imagination. If you understand the culture of the Japanese it is very, very rare for him to come out."

1117Some 430,000 people displaced by the natural disaster are staying in more than 2,400 shelters, according to Kyodo. It reports that prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima are seeking to build 32,800 temporary housing units.

1113Japan's main news agency, Kyodo, says the current death toll from Friday's earthquake and tsunami will inevitably climb higher as the recovery of bodies mainly in the tsunami-hit coastal areas "starts in full swing".

1110 The BBC's Piers Scholfield tweets: "spoke to lots of tokyo residents about nuclear situation. generally foreigners more twitchy but plenty of locals sending families south too"

1107France has also called a meeting of G7 finance ministers to respond to the crisis in Japan, Reuters reports. Finance Minister Christine Lagarde says the meeting will look at "how we can take part in their debt issues and how we can react on a financial level".

1103The BBC's Christian Fraser points out that no other country relies as heavily as France on nuclear power. It relies on nuclear power for 75% of it domestic supplies.It has 19 plants and 58 reactors. France is also at the forefront of nuclear technology, and President Sarkozy knows the debate over nuclear energy following events in Japan will affect the fortunes of the giant nucelar group Areva.

1055French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he will call a special G20 meeting to discuss the energy sector in light of events in Japan. France currently holds the G20 presidency.

1053Reuters reports that while the emperor has given occasional pre-recorded news conferences on set occasions such as his birthday and before overseas trips, the suddenness of the message, its simultaneous airing on nationwide TV and its content were unprecedented. After the earthquake in Kobe in 1995, which killed more than 6,400 people,
Emperor Akihito issued a written statement, AFP says.

1049Referring to Emperor Akihito's broadcast address earlier, Japan's NHK TV commentary says that this is the first time the emperor has used a video message to convey his feelings to the Japanese people.

1044China has become the latest country to order a review of security at its nuclear plants and suspend the approval of new nuclear projects, AFP reports.

1041Economists expect that a sharp contraction in Japan as the country struggles to deal with huge damage to infrastructure could be followed by a recovery once the effect of government spending on public works kicks in.

1037The economic impact from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan is expected to be huge. But after falling sharply on Monday and Tuesday, stocks on the Nikkei 225 gained 5.7% to close at 9,093.72 points on Wednesday. You can read our business story here.

1031Tokyo's Ueno Zoo will postpone the public display of a pair of giant pandas leased from China, initially scheduled on 22 March, Kyodo new reports. Tama Zoological Park, Tokyo Sea Life Park and Inokashira Park Zoo, will also be closed due to the risk from aftershocks and in order to save electricity.

1026The governor of Japan's Fukushima prefecture says the level of worry and anger among residents has been "pushed to the limit".

1024 Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times tweets: "More on plant workers: they took cover for 45mins on site & left water pumps running. There was no suspension of operations. TEPCO official"

1019We now have a full story on the UK team that says it was turned back because of red tape at the British embassy in Tokyo. The British ambassador to Japan said the embassy had helped the team as much as it could.

1014Just to clarify, those within 20km of the Fukushima Daiichi plant have been evacuated, while those within 20-30km have been advised to stay indoors.

1010More on the current nuclear situation from chief cabinet secretary Edano. He says those outside a 20km exclusion zone around the troubled plant are not in any immediate danger, and that at 4pm local time the level of radiation at the plant was stable at about 1.5 millisieverts.

1005A reminder from Tuesday that Germany is temporarily shutting down its seven oldest nuclear reactors while it reconsiders its nuclear strategy. The Swiss government has suspended decisions on its nuclear programme, Russia has announced that it'll carry out a review of its nuclear power sector, and the EU has reached agreement on "stress tests" for all European nuclear facilities.

0959Following reports that several governments plan to reconsider their nuclear strategy after the events in Japan, science journalist Angela Saini tells the BBC World Service that this makes sense in seismically active zones. "But it would would just be reckless to throw energy policy up in the air because of an incident that affected one country, [it's] almost freakishly rare for there to be an earthquake and a tsunami and for emergency services to be overwhelmed like that," she says.

0956Water is being poured into Reactors Five and Six at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Reuters reports, quoting the operating company.

0951From Paris, the BBC's Christian Fraser says that France's decision to offer it Tokyo-based citizens the chance to leave is partially motivated by domestic political problems. "Obviously it is a precaution and they might be accused of scaremongering but their new Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has been keen to get on the front foot, to show that they are in charge of the situation," he said.

0948 Ashley Thompson in Shizuoka, Japan tweets: "No water at drug store either - and not much toilet paper/tissue..."

0943The BBC's Clive Myrie in Yamagata has been speaking to volunteers helping out in an evacuation centre. One woman came down to help out with her son when she heard it was being set up. "The whole country is pulling together - we've seen all the images on television and everyone wants to do what they can to help," Natsuko Suzuki said.

0938Prof Spiegelhalter adds that fear is exacerbated by the fact that most people do not understand the science behind nuclear power. "There is a real emotional, gut feeling response to it. And of course it is usually tied in with trust - with trust in authorities, in the electricity company and in what you are being told. And that takes a long time to build up, even in situations when there is no apparent risk. So it's a very tricky issue."

0933Some interesting comments on the psychological impact of nuclear crises from David Spiegelhalter, professor of the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge: "Nuclear issues really tick all the boxes when it comes to peoples' fears. It's been researched very well that it's an area where all the things that make people shudder come to the fore," he tells the BBC World Service. "The idea of some sort of invisible threat, something you can't see - it's associated with cancer, people don't feel in control of it, you cannot just get to the high ground."

0928 The Daily Yomiuri tweets: "Tokyo Intl #Anime Fair, which was due to be held in Tokyo from March 24-27, has been canceled due to #jpquake."

0925 Our correspondent Rachel Harvey, in Ofunato on the country's eastern coast, says: "There is the odd ATM sign and road sign still standing but everything else here has been flattened. This is the scene of a pretty sizeable search-and-rescue operation but it is rapidly becoming a search for bodies, and not survivors."

0921Luke Cummings, who grew up in Sendai and now lives in Tokyo, is shuttling back and forth between the capital and the north-east to help with the rescue effort. He tells the BBC World Service that he and a friend reacted to a web alert by the authorities asking for food. "Right now we have one truck and one big van that we use to transport food and other supplies," he says, adding that there are other groups from the capital trying to help. "We are connected with the food bank in Tokyo, they are supplying us with food, and they also have a couple of trucks they are going up with to take supplies."

0917Here's a much fuller quote from Emperor Akihito's address: "The number of people killed is increasing day by day and we do not know how many people have fallen victim. I pray for the safety of as many people as possible. People are being forced to evacuate in such severe conditions of bitter cold, with shortages of water and fuel. I cannot help praying that rescue work is done swiftly and people's lives get better, even a little... I sincerely hope that we can keep the situation from getting worse. I have received messages of condolence from heads of state of various countries with kind words that their hearts are with the victims. Allow me to convey the words to people in the afflicted areas."

0913Chief cabinet secretary Edano says preparations are being made to inject water from the ground into Reactor Four at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

0908Chief cabinet secretary and government spokesman Yukio Edano is giving another press conference. He has reaffirmed that there is no immediate health risk around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

0906Spain is to review security at all of its six nuclear plants, AFP reports.

0901Army has aborted an operation to spray water on the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japan's NHK TV reports.

0855 Tomoko Hosaka of the Associated Press tweets: "The emperor's address wasn't live. He taped it earlier today, according to the Imperial Household Agency. #tsunami"

0851 Kaz Nakatani tweets: "We are deeply grateful to the Emperor for his day and night pray for peace & quiet of the country."

0847The UK's Daily Telegraph has a piece based on Wikileaks cables saying Japan was warned by the IAEA more than two years ago that its nuclear power plants were not capable of withstanding powerful earthquakes.

0842The World Health Organisation says there is no evidence of any significant spread of radiation. The WHO's Michael O'Leary urges governments and members of the public to take steps to halt rumours about "a threatening radiation cloud spreading across Asia".

0832The radiation level at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant reached a high of 10 millisievert per hour at one point Wednesday morning, Kyodo reports. Here's a Q&A on the health risks from radiation.

0827Following that item on the demand for private jets, Reuters is also running a story on the flight of foreign bankers from Tokyo. This despite a denial from the Tokyo-based International Bankers Association that any exodus was under way.

0821Another quote from Japan's emperor: ''I sincerely hope that the people will overcome this unfortunate time by engendering a sense of caring for other people,'' he said in an address broadcast a short while ago.

0816Prices for private jets have leapt up as thousands of people trying to get out of Japan put in orders, Reuters reports. "I got a request yesterday to fly 14 people from Tokyo to Hong Kong, 5 hour 5 minutes trip. They did not care about price," Reuters quotes Jackie Wu of Hong Kong Jet as saying.

0811The second British rescue team (not the government team) - International Rescue Corps - is on its way back from Tokyo after the British Embassy in Tokyo refused to give them a letter of authorisation which would allow them entry into the disaster zones and enable them to get fuel. "There's an emptiness and disbelief," said Willie McMartin, IRC Operations Director. "This was the 32nd world disaster we have been to and we've only had problems twice before with host governments in China and Afghanistan. We have never encountered the position where the British embassy, our own country, came up with a show stopper."

0806Japan's NHK TV reports that a helicopter that is to drop water over Reactor Three will pass over the reactor many times. It says the helicopter can't stay too long over the plant because of the risk of radiation to the crew. Images of the helicopter show it scooping water from the sea into a red container similar to those used in fire-fighting operations around the world.

0801Stay with us for the latest updates - reports from our correspondents on the ground, expert analysis, and your reaction from around the world. You can contact us via email, text or twitter. We'll publish what we can.

0759If you're just joining us, the latest on the nuclear crisis in Japan is that staff have returned to work at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant, after a rise in radiation levels forced them to temporarily abandon the facility. Earlier, a blaze struck reactor four at Fukushima Daiichi for the second time in two days, and smoke was seen billowing from reactor three.The pant has suffered several explosions, triggering radiation leaks.

0755Turkey is advising citizens to postpone non-essential travel to Japan, Reuters reports, while Australia is advising its nationals to consider leaving Tokyo and the eight worst-affected prefectures.

0750Emperor Akihito also expressed concern about the continuing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant during his address.

0745These are the first public comments from the emperor since Friday's earthquake and tsunami. It's very rare for him to make such appearances. He says he's "deeply worried" after an earthquake he describes as "unprecedented in scale".

0741The emperor expresses his condolences to disaster victims, appeals to people not to give up hope.

0739"I pray for the safety of as many people as possible" - Emperor Akihito.

0737Japan's Emperor Akihito is making a televised address to the nation.

0732The number of confirmed dead now stands at 3,771, Japan's NHK TV reports. There are nearly 8,000 people missing.

0725The total number of dead or missing is now more than 11,000 Japan's NHK TV reports - the first time since WWII that so many people have been killed in Japan in a natural disaster.

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0722 Charles Chen in Tokyo writes: "There is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety for people in Tokyo - especially amongst foreigners - regarding the nuclear situation in Fukushima. But I believe that part of the anxiety is due to the reporting. Speaking as a scientist, it may be true that 'higher than normal' levels of radiation have been measured in the Tokyo area; however, that must be put into proper context in terms of what levels are potentially harmful to human health. We are not anywhere near the level of danger."

0719A helicopter used to pour water over one of the reactors has taken off, Japanese TV reports.

0714A reminder that freezing weather is forecast over the coming days in Japan, making things even tougher for those made homeless by the earthquake and tsunami. Temperatures have already plunged to 0C in many of the affected areas."

0709 Steve Herman of Voice of America tweets: "It just started snowing here in Fukushima-ken."

0706Some rare good news for Japan's economy: Toyota says it will restart some domestic auto parts production from Thursday, Reuters reports. But it has not yet decided when to restart its 12 main assembly plants.

0702Japan's NHK TV confirms that the evacuation order for nuclear plant workers has been lifted.

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0657 Joseph Frost in Tokyo writes: "I listened to an interview on the BBC saying that there is no risk to Tokyoites, even in a worse-case scenario concerning the Fukushima nuclear plant. But I keep coming across other reports about elevated radiation levels already being detected here. Can anyone say definitively that even in the case of a meltdown Tokyo residents are completely safe?"

0653South Korea is planning to ship boric acid to Japan, Kyodo news reports. It says Japan requested the boric acid, which is used to stop fission nuclear reactions, after its own supplies were largely used up at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

0648The mayor of Koriyama city, near Fukushima, says there's a desperate need for fuel, oil water and food for evacuees. "I really would like
to appeal to the world: We need help," the mayor, Masao Hara, tells AFP.

0645 Sophia Fukunishi tweets: "I've come to Kyoto to escape the tremors in Tokyo and the hotel has put me in room 9-11. Wonderful."

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0640 Ree Coulbourne in Shin-Urayasu, Japan writes: "I am a missionary in Chiba prefecture. The churches here have mobilised. The donations from the community are pouring in. We have taken a truckload up to Fukushima each of the past three nights. We hear about more radiation, are afraid to let our kids outside but we are not suffering like Fukushima, and we want to help if we can."

0635 Tomo Akiyama in Tokyo tweets: "Distance between Three Mile Island & NYC: 100 miles / Between Fukushima Nuclear Plant & Tokyo: 150 miles. Stay calm people."

0625Shares in Fukushima's operator TEPCO plunge 24.7% in Tokyo's trade, the AFP reports.

0623Workers at the Fukushima plant have returned after being evacuated, CNN is quoting Tokyo Electric Power Company as saying.

0611Tokyo stocks rebound sharply after Tuesday's dramatic plunge, with the Nikkei up 5.68%.

0606 markmackinnon tweets: "Amid everything going wrong in Japan, the polite helpfulness ordinary Japanese offer to a stranger astonishes me."

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0556Peter McArthur, an English language teacher, tells the BBC that he and his wife have now moved from Narita, Chiba prefecture, to Osaka because of safety concerns. He says: "We decided to get out because the stress and worry posed a threat to my health. In fact, I've probably been exposed to more radiation on the flight than I would have been if I'd stayed put! My wife feels ashamed to leave behind family who are dutifully going to work as normal. I'm torn because I feel a commitment to Japan and their way of life, but the stress was starting to affect my health."

0539The Japanese government has decided to accept the help of doctors from overseas as an exceptional measure to treat survivors of the devastating earthquake, foreign ministry officials are quoted as saying by Kyodo. The news agency says that Canada and several other countries have offered to dispatch medical teams.

0530 The US State Department tweets: "For concerns about a specific U.S. citizen in #Japan, please call 1-888-407-4747 or email Http://"

0524Taro Kono, a Japanese opposition politician, criticises the government for not releasing information about the smoke above the Fukushima nuclear plant earlier. He tells the BBC that a three-hour delay in informing people has caused concern among the population.

0510Japan's worsening nuclear crisis will now be compared to the Chernobyl disaster, an editorial in Japan's Asahi Shimbun says. It adds that the unprecedented disaster will test the resilience of Japanese society.

0500The Japanese government has now decided to put off for at least two months gubernatorial, mayoral and assembly elections in April in areas worst-hit by the earthquake and tsunami, Kyodo reports.

0456More on the evacuation of French nationals from Japan. The BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo says the evacuation will begin on Thursday. Two French planes are already on their way to Japan.

0446 elizadushku tweets: "Japan~ images roll before my eyes throughout the days since you were ravaged... We are all one & together we will overcome... Deepest love".

0433France is now urging its nationals in Tokyo to leave Japan or head to the south of the country, Reuters reports. It says Paris has asked the Air France carrier to provide planes for the evacuation.

0428The Japanese government is ready to release rice stockpiles wherever needed, the country's farm minister is quoted as saying by the Kyodo news agency.

0422The Japan Meteorological Agency said it was a 6.0 magnitude quake in the Pacific just off Chiba prefecture.

0411 tokyoreporter tweets: "And the shaking is on again in Tokyo... pretty decent this time".

0404More details on that new quake. No tsunami warning was immediately issued, but the Japan Meteorological Agency said a change in sea levels was possible, the AFP reports.

0401An earthquake hits eastern Japan, with the force strong enough to sway buildings in Tokyo.

0349 Japan says it is ready to ask the US military for help in battling the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant, the AFP news agency reports.

0325 More on that news conference by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano. He said: "At around 0830 today, at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, white smoke has been seen coming out of reactor three. And regarding this, currently we are looking for the cause.

0320 Staff have now been evacuated from Fukushima because of a spike in radiation levels, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference.

0252 Two crew members on an Australian search and rescue helicopter showed low levels of radiation contamination after they were forced to make an emergency landing in Fukushima on Wednesday, AFP news agency reports. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was quoted as saying the radiation was detected on their boots. They landed about 12 miles (20km) outside the exclusion zone surrounding the plant.

0236 Mr Edano, Japan's chief government spokesman, says workers trying to douse the reactors with water were forced to retreat when radiation levels surged there.

0221 Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says the authorities are still looking for the cause of white smoke billowing from reactor 3 at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. He says the radiation reading at the plant is fluctuating by the hour.

0219 The New York Times reports on the 50 workers who have remained behind at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, "braving radiation and fire".

0211 The Daily Yomiuri tweets: "Tokyo Electric officials say the white smoke being reported at the Fukushima No1 nuclear plant could possibly be steam."

0208 South Korea says it will send some 50 tonnes of its boron reserves to Japan after a request from Tokyo, Reuters reports. The metalloid is vital for stopping fission nuclear reactions in nuclear reactors.

0206 Mark MacKinnon, East Asia correspondent for the Canadian national newspaper The Globe and Mail tweets: "It's now snowing in Rikuzen-Takanata, the devastated town I wrote about ( Survivors, rescuers don't need that."

0155 Shiho Fukada, writing on New York Times's Lens blog about photographing the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, says: "Tomorrow, we are going back to where we were today. I want to see more rescue efforts there. You have to make lots of judgments in really quick time: where to go, what to do, when to leave - without having much information. That's really hard, the instinct. That's very critical. Quick, smart judgments when you have limited information. And limited time. And limited fuel."

0146 Tepco says the reactor 3 at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been emitting white smoke for about 45 minutes, Kyodo News reports. The plant's reactor 4 was the one where a fire broke out earlier this morning, Tepco said.

0137 Voice of America's Seoul-based north-east Asia correspondent Steve Herman tweets: "Testy Tepco officials telling reporters difficult from the live NHK video to tell what's happening at Fukushima-1 right now."

0131 The Daily Yomiuri tweets: "China announces it will start radiation checks on Japanese goods arriving at ports and airports."

0117 Live Japanese television pictures appear to show white smoke still billowing in the area of the building housing the No.4 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, despite reports that a new fire there was under control.

0103 The Daily Yomiuri , a Japanese English-language newspaper, tweets: "120 maguro tuna at an experimental fish farm in Wakayama mysteriously died suddenly yesterday. Experts suspect it was related to the tsunami."

0056 Japan's central bank has injected a further $43bn (£26.75bn) into the money markets to ease the impact of quake, the Associated Press reports.

0045 The Tokyo Electric Power Company is implementing rolling blackouts in the Tokyo area for the third consecutive day, amid major power shortages. The company, which operates the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, says the outages will last about three hours for affected areas.

0038 An American assistant teacher on the JET programme is unaccounted for in quake-hit Iwate, Japan's Kyodo News reports, quoting the Japanese Consulate General in New York. For more details on the safety of participants, go to the JET website .

0031 Three decades before the current nuclear crisis in Japan, the eyes of the world were on an unfolding disaster in America. The BBC's Katie Connolly writes about the lessons of Three Mile Island .

0029 Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) says it will be extremely difficult to spray water from a helicopter to cool down a storage pool for spent nuclear fuel in the No.4 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Earlier Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that the storage pool could be boiling, while Tepco said readings showed high levels of radiation, making the building inaccessible.

0022 Another update on the Nikkei: Tokyo stocks are already up 6% in early trading following the biggest two-day sell-off for 24 years.

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0017 Masayuki Okumiya, from Tokyo, Japan, writes: "It is 0900 in Tokyo, and the scenery of commute looks normal. JR Chuo-Line is operating on schedule, and there are as many commuters in stations as ever without any panic nor confusion, seemingly. I have heard that some companies advised their employees to stay at home during this week, but don't know how many corporates are doing like that. I am worried about the situtations at the nuclear plants of course, but it doesn't look like imminent. Hopefully, my judgement, instinct, hunch, or whatever is right."

0010 Tokyo shares are 3.73 per cent higher due to bargain buying in the wake of a massive two-day sell off of stocks amid fears of the threat of nuclear meltdown.

0008The Japanese authorities are still struggling to cope with the humanitarian aftermath of Friday's earthquake and tsunami. More than 500,000 people are living in temporary shelters, which are short of water, food and fuel - while more freezing weather and snow is predicted for the days ahead. Nearly 3,500 people are now known to have died and many more remain unaccounted for. Ninety-one countries have offered aid ranging from blankets, to search dogs and military transport aircraft.

0003A new fire that broke out inside reactor 4 at the Fukushima Daaichi nuclear plant, which was damaged in Friday's earthquake and tsunami, appears to be out. This was the second time in two days that the reactor where spent nuclear rods were being kept caught fire. Workers at the plant are pumping sea-water through several of the plant's reactors in an effort to cool and stabilise them. Japanese media reports say radiation levels at the reactors remain too high for workers there to approach them. Japan's Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have expressed concern and called for the provision of more timely, and accurate information.

0001Welcome to the sixth day of our live coverage of Japan's earthquake disaster. Stay with us for the latest updates - reports from our correspondents on the ground, expert analysis, and your reaction from around the world. You can contact us via email, text or twitter. We'll publish what we can. You can catch up with day five here.

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