Media statement by Lim Kit Siang in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, 18th March 2011:
Speedy action by Malaysian Government in evacuating Malaysians in Japan needed
In view of the worsening nuclear crisis situation in Japan, the Malaysian government should take proactive steps in ensuring the safety of Malaysians in Japan.
The Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili, said today that the situation does not warrant an immediate evacuation of Malaysians living there, as readings taken in Tokyo, Miyagi and Ibaraki yesterday afternoon averaged about 0.17uSv/hr (microsieverts per hour), which was lower than the maximum allowed radiation dosage of 0.5uSv/hr for the Malaysian public.
In contrast to the minister’s calm response, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the overall situation was “very serious” though did not appear to be deteriorating. The chief US nuclear regulatory official said radiation levels around the fuel ponds were extremely high and “potentially lethal” near the reactors. Explaining the decision to deploy helicopters on Thursday, Toshimi Kitazawa, the defence minister, said conditions at the reactors had reached a critical point.
IAEA also reported that in some locations at around 30 km from the Fukushima plant, the dose rates rose significantly in the last 24 hours (in one location from 80 to 170 microsievert per hour and in another from 26 to 95 microsievert per hour). Dose rates to the north-west of the nuclear power plants, were observed in the range 3 to 170 microsievert per hour. Dose rates in other directions are in the 1 to 5 microsievert per hour range.
The US had issued a new advice of wider evacuating zone of 80km, contrary to their earlier advice until Thursday to follow Japanese advice of a 20-kilometer evacuation zone around the plant. The same advice was issued by the governments of other countries, including Britain, Canada, Australia and South Korea.
Foreign firms including German technology companies SAP and Infineon, Cisco Systems Inc, International Business Machines Corp, Peugeot, Continental were reported to be evacuating their staffs either to the south of Japan or to leave the country.
Embassies including the United States and United Kingdom had arrangement for chartered flight to leave the country in view of the critical situation. The US had issued official statement that the nuclear crisis was more dire than expressed by Japanese officials, and had provided transportation for US citizens to safehaven locations in Asia on a reimbursable basis yesterday.
Meanwhile, a French government plane has already left Tokyo earlier today for Seoul in South Korea with 241 people on board, with another flight planned for French citizens wishing to leave Japan. Two Czech military planes had also landed in Prague after evacuating 106 people from the country.
Until yesterday, the foreign ministry of Malaysia reported that they brought back 50 Malaysians out of the 289 Malaysians in the four worst-hit areas.
Following the example of other countries, the government should take speedy action to aid Malaysians who are still in Tokyo and the disaster zone to leave the country safely.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor