An explosion at a nuclear power station tore down the walls of one building Saturday as smoke poured out and Japanese officials said they feared the reactor could melt down following the failure of its cooling system in a powerful earthquake and tsunami.
It was not clear if the damaged building housed the reactor. Tokyo Power Electric Co., the utility that runs the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, said four workers were injured but details were not immediately available.
Footage on Japanese TV showed that the walls of one building had crumbled, leaving only a skeletal metal frame standing. Puffs of smoke were spewing out of the plant.
“We are now trying to analyze what is behind the explosion,” said government spokesman Yukio Edano, stressing that people should quickly evacuate a six-mile (10-kilometer) radius. “We ask everyone to take action to secure safety.”
The trouble began at the plant’s Unit 1 after Friday’s massive 8.9-magnitude earthquake and the tsunami it spawned knocked out power there. The disaster has killed hundreds of people and devastated the country’s northeastern coast, where rescuers began slowly arriving Saturday.