The nuclear crisis in Japan escalated as a third explosion in four days rocked another reactor at the quake-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant early on March 15.

The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., (TEPCO), said the radiation level had at a time reached 8,217 microsieverts per hour after a blast at the reactor No. 2, which was eight times the radiation a person would usually experience in a year.

All the workers were evacuated from the facility after the explosion, it said.

The Japanese media on the day said that fuel rods at the plant’s reactor No. 2 have been totally exposed, raising concerns on partial meltdown of the fuel rods.

Earlier on March 14, Japanese officials also worried that the fuel rods could be in partial meltdown in all three troubled reactors.

“Although we cannot directly check it, it’s highly likely happening,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.

Yukiya Amano, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), stressed that it was unlikely that the accident would develop like Chernobyl .

In another development, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that a new 4.1-magnitude quake hit Tokyo on 5:00 am on March 15 (local time). No causalities, losses or tsunami warning have been reported after the quake.

The dead and missing in the wake of March 11’s 9.0-magnitude quake and massive tsunami topped 5,000 after some 2,000 dead bodies were found along two shores in hardest-hit Miyagi Prefecture .

At present, there are still some 10,000 people missing and 10,000 others isolated while water, food and fuel are in short supply on large scale plus communication failures.

On March 14, the US Seventh Fleet announced that it had moved its ships and aircraft away from the areas near the Fukushima nuclear power plant after discovering low-level radioactive contamination that led to 17 military personnel being treated for exposure.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin has announced that Russia is ready to provide 200,000 tonnes of liquefied gas for Japan to overcome the quake aftermaths.

Moscow will increase coal supplies and provide additional 6,000 MW of electricity for Tokyo , he added.

At present, around 180 Russian nuclear energy experts and officers are in Japan to help the country surmount the consequences of the disaster./.