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      Nuclear Meltdown Fears in Japan; 12,000 Dead or Missing

      Japan faces trouble at nuclear reactors as tsunami death toll rises above 2,000, with 9,500 still missing.
      By Maayana Miskin
      First Publish: 3/12/2011, 9:23 PM / Last Update: 3/12/2011, 10:14 PM

      Workers at two nuclear plants in Japan are struggling to prevent a meltdown in the wake of a powerful earthquake, a tsunami, and an explosion. Crews flooded an overheated reactor core with sea water in hopes of heading off a disaster.

      Earlier Saturday a failure in the pumping system at the Fukushima Daiichi plant caused an explosion that caused damage to the building housing the plant but did not reach the reactor itself.


      Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes near that plant and near a second plant in the region, the Fukushima Daini plant, in which the cooling system has failed. Three people selected at random from dozens of crew members have tested positive for exposure to radiation.

      A third plant in Onagawa was the site of a fire Friday but is not currently the subject of concern.

      9,500 Missing in Single Town
      Meanwhile, 9,500 people remain unaccounted for in the city of Minamisanriku, a town on Japan's northeastern coast that was hit hard by Friday's tsunami. The total population of the town is under 20,000.

      Rescue teams have been unable to reach some areas due to damage from the earthquake, which destroyed airports on the east coast.

      The tsunami swept inland as far as six miles. Thousands of homes were destroyed by the rushing water, and four entire trains were swept off the tracks and remain missing.

      Minor tsunamis hit Taiwan later in the day, and elevated waves were reported in Hawaii and the Philippines. Most people in those areas had been evacuated from the coastline following the massive tsunami in Japan, but one casualty has been reported.

      Israel's Foreign Ministry reported Saturday night that so far, it has not heard from 20 Israelis, who remain unaccounted for. Foreign Ministry officials have also issued a travel warning to Israelis living or traveling in Japan and other Pacific countries, advising them to stay away from the coastal areas and to obey instructions from local officials.