Rescuers could return if nuclear threat worsens

The China Post news staff

Interior Minister Jiang Yi-huah yesterday admitted that Taiwanese rescuers currently conducting a relief mission in Japan’s quake-stricken areas are not equipped with equipment to protect them from a possible radioactive threat. “The team is currently helping with search and rescue efforts in Sendai City of Miyagi Prefecture and is not near those potentially radioactive areas,” Jiang said. If the nuclear threat continues to worsen and Japanese authorities think it is necessary for foreign rescue teams to evacuate, Jiang said the Taiwanese government will ask the rescuers to immediately suspend their mission and return home. “Our team is there to rescue lives, not to deal with radioactive threats,” he added. Jiang made the comment in response to an opposition lawmaker’s question on why the local team failed to prepare themselves with protective equipment despite earlier reports which had already revealed that the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant had released high levels of radiation after being disabled by an earthquake and tsunami. The insufficient preparations have put the life-savers in serious danger and the government should have been more cautious and well-prepared before the team departed, said opposition Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Ting-fei. Meanwhile, in order to help the Taiwanese rescue team better prepare for the possibility of nuclear fallout, the National Fire Agency (NFA) under the Ministry of Interior yesterday said they had ordered a batch of radiation protection equipment be sent to the 28-man team in Japan.

The equipment includes 55 sets of radiation protection suits, a pair of radiation detectors and a week’s supply of iodine tablets for the rescue team.

The iodine can help block the intake of radiation to the thyroid gland, according to the NFA.

The shipment was scheduled to arrive at Haneda Airport in Tokyo yesterday afternoon, and will be immediately sent to the rescue team around Sendai Airport, the NFA said.