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Explosion near Japanese nuclear plant

(CNN) — An explosion has been reported near a nuclear plant in northeastern Japan’s Fukushima prefecture, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said Saturday, citing the country’s nuclear and industrial safety agency.

The Tokyo Electric Company said some workers on the ground were injured, NHK reported.

It was not immediately clear where the blast occurred in relation to the Fukushima Daiichi plant, or what caused it.

Earlier Saturday Japan’s nuclear agency said workers were continuing efforts to cool fuel rods at the plant after a small amount of radioactive material escaped into the air.

The agency said there was a strong possibility that the small amount of radioactive cesium monitors detected was caused by the melting of a fuel rod at the plant, adding that engineers were continuing to cool the fuel rods by pumping water around them.

A spokesman for Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Agency earlier said atomic material had seeped out of one of the five nuclear reactors at the Daiichi plant, located about 160 miles (260 kilometers) north of Tokyo.

Authorities evacuated people living near the reactor after an earthquake and tsunami crippled cooling systems there, as well as at another of the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s nuclear plants.

The evacuations notwithstanding, the nuclear safety agency asserted Saturday that the radiation at the plants did not pose an immediate threat to nearby residents’ health, the Kyodo News Agency said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday on its website that the quake and tsunami knocked out a Daiichi reactor’s off-site power source, which is used to cool down the radioactive material inside. Then, the tsunami waves disabled the backup source — diesel generators — and authorities were working to get these operating.

On Saturday Japanese nuclear authorities said the cooling system had also failed at three of the four reactors at the Fukushima Daini plant — located in another town in northeaster Japan’s Fukushima prefecture.

Janie Eudy told CNN that her 52-year-old husband, Joe, was working at the Daiichi plant and was injured by falling and shattering glass when the quake struck. As he and others were planning to evacuate, at their managers’ orders, the tsunami waves struck and washed buildings from the nearby town past the plant.

“To me, it sounded like hell on earth,” she said, adding her husband — a native of Pineville, Louisiana — ultimately escaped.

The power company reported Saturday that about 1 million households were without power, and that power shortages may occur due to damage at the company’s facility.

“We kindly ask our customers to cooperate with us in reducing usage of power,” the company said.

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