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Saturday, October 9, 1999 Published at 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

'Chernobyl doctor' treats radiation victims

The nuclear accident was the world's worst since Chernobyl

A man battling for his life after a nuclear accident in Japan was exposed to a higher dose of radiation than anyone who survived the world's worst nuclear leak at Chernobyl.

Japan's nuclear crisis
A doctor who treated some of the victims of the Ukraine accident 13 years ago, said Hisashi Ouchi was exposed to radiation that would have proved instantly fatal to 90 to 95% of victims.

"It is going to require a lot of work and a lot of good luck to get him through all of the problems that he is going to face in the next few weeks," Dr Robert Gale said on Saturday.

[ image: Almost 50 people were exposed to radiation]
Almost 50 people were exposed to radiation
Mr Ouchi received 17 sieverts of radiation. Seven sieverts is considered by experts to be a lethal dose.

Dr Gale, an American bone marrow specialist who has been examining survivors of the accident, said Mr Ouchi was one of the most severe victims he had ever seen.

Nuclear reaction

Mr Ouchi, a worker at a uranium processing plant in Tokaimura, 140km (90 miles) north of Tokyo, has been given similar treatment to some patients suffering from leukaemia.

He has been described as conscious but on a respirator and suffering from skin lesions, fluid in his lungs and diminished white blood cell production.

Around 50 people were exposed to radiation after workers put almost eight times the proper amount of uranium into a mixing tank, setting off a nuclear reaction.

The Japanese Government has come under fire for its lax supervision of the site.

An official for the government science and technology agency said on Saturday the Tokaimura site had not been inspected for almost seven years "because of a lack of manpower".

Upgrade possible

On Friday, Japanese officials said the leak may be upgraded to the same level of severity as the US Three Mile Island accident 20 years ago - one level higher than first thought.

The International Atomic Energy Authority had provisionally classified the accident as a level four incident, which means it is an accident with limited outside consequences.

The American leak was a level five, while Chernobyl was a level seven, the highest rating.

In the case of Chernobyl, there was an explosion and radioactive material was blown across Belarus, the Ukraine and Europe.

Areas around the site are still affected.

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