Signs of an escalating civil nuclear crisis in Japan emerged on Wednesday, with the authorities making “precautionary” announcements that water in Tokyo was found to contain radioactive iodine above the permissible standard.

The Japanese Prime Minister's Office (PMO) advised the citizens to take the “precautionary measure” of not feeding babies with tap water in the affected areas in Tokyo. “Radioactive iodine exceeding two times the limit for infants was detected in water at a purification plant in Kanamachi, Tokyo,” said the Office. However, the “210-becquerel/kg of radioactive iodine in question were lower than the limit for children and the 300-becquerel/kg limit for adults,” it was emphasised on the Facebook page of the PMO.

The Tokyo water was also declared fit for all purposes other than the feeding of infants. Authorities also announced that water in areas around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was knocked out of action by the March 11 temblor and tsunami, was found to contain radioactive iodine. In addition, high radiation was detected in soil samples at a village in the vicinity.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano appealed to Tokyo residents to refrain from panic buying of water.

Outlining yet another aspect of an apparently expanding crisis, Mr. Edano said in Tokyo that the air radiation level in some places outside the 30-km range from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant “exceeds the legal [limit].” However, this would not necessitate an immediate evacuation of people from those areas, he said. The residents of areas in the immediate vicinity of the plant were evacuated as soon as a civil nuclear emergency was declared in the wake of the temblor and the tsunami.

In an update, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Wednesday that “progress is uncertain” in the continuing efforts to restore electricity at the damaged reactor sites for activating the cooling systems there and preventing a major catastrophe.

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