Tokyo (Xinhua): Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said Saturday that an explosion was heard near one of its stricken nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture, in a sign a partial meltdown had occurred.
At a press conference, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency confirmed that the blast was heard near the No. 1 reactor of Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Separately, public broadcaster NHK reported that the ceiling of the building collapsed and 4 people were injured in the accident.
According to the NHK report, the accident occurred at around 3: 36 p.m.(0636 GMT), a day after a 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck northeastern Japan, triggering massive tsunami on the Pacific coast.
Radioactive substances have been detected, and local authorities advised residents to stay clear of a 10-km radius of the nuclear plant.
The reports of the explosion followed frequent aftershocks and came amid a mammoth search and rescue mission launched in the northeastern region of Japan involving both Japanese and U.S. military forces.
As international rescue teams arrive in Japan, at least 1,300 people are feared dead following Friday’s colossal earthquake and tsunami.