Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan has urged people within 18 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power complex, which is 150 miles north of Tokyo, to remain indoors, as the country comes to terms with what appears to be the world's biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
On Tuesday, Japanese officials reported a third explosion in the complex, which damaged a vessel containing the nuclear core at one reactor, and large amounts of radioactive material are said to have spewed into the air.
Kan said: 'The level (of radiation) seems very high. And there is still a very high risk of more radiation coming out'.
70,000 people have already been evacuated from the area, and an additional 140,000 have now sealed themselves indoors, as officials south of Fukushima reported up to 100 times the normal levels of radiation there. Japan's Chief Cabinrt Secretary, Yukio Edano, said: 'Please do not go outside. Please stay indoors. Please close your window and make your homes airtight'.
Prolonged exposure even at these levels, however, is not thought to be life threatening, but the blasts could expose the population to a higher risk from bone cancers and leukemia.
And Japanese people living in surrounding areas are said to be beginning to panic, stocking up on provisions and hording food. Shops in Tokyo's Roppongi district are said to have sold out of candles, fuel cans, radios, sleeping bags and torches.
In the meantime, a Red Cross worker in the Japanes coastal town of Otsuchi, which bore the brunt of Friday's tsunami, told Reuters that: 'It really doesn't get any worse than this - I've never seen anything so bad. I don't think you will find anywhere worse on the coastline'.
The financial cost of the crisis is also growing too, with some estimating that Japan now faces a recovery and reconstruction bill of around $180bn - over 50% more than the total cost of the 1995 Kobe earthquake.
Tokyo shares led Asian stocks down Tuesday, with the Nikkei 225 index closing a further 10.55% off (on top of Monday's 6.2% drop).
Image: The image shown is a Help Japan screen printed poster produced by W+K Studio. All profits from the sale of the poster go to the relief effort.
Sources - Reuters, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal