Washington: People living in Russia's Far East near Japan are buying iodine pills to fight radioactive isotopes even as the government insisted that radiation levels in Russia are in safe limits, a media report said Wednesday.
As Russia and Ukraine prepare to mark the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl disaster in April, many residents recollected the accident when little information was released by Soviet authorities.
Some Russians living close to Japan decided not to wait for government warnings, and many visited pharmacies to buy iodine pills, believed to prevent the body from absorbing radioactive isotopes, the Wall Street Journal reported.
"There has definitely been a run on these kinds of medicines in the last two days," said a salesperson at a pharmacy in Vladivostok, adding that it had completely ran out of iodine tablets.
Dosimeters, which measure exposure to radiation, were also selling more quickly than usual.
"Yes, people are buying medicines in the drugstores and dosimeters," said Alexei Rasputny, a reporter from the Novaya Gazeta newspaper in Vladivostok, Russia's main port on the Pacific. "But nobody is leaving, nobody is talking about that."
Japan is facing a nuclear disaster after a massive magnitude-9 earthquake followed by tsunami hit the northeastern coast March 11. Explosions and fire at the Fukushima nuclear power plant put the nation on high alert.
Russia's easternmost regions reported steady radiation levels of between nine and 13 micro-Roentgens per hour, well within safe levels, according to the emergency situations Ministry.
Meanwhile, Russian military units stationed on the island of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, which are disputed with Japan, prepared for a possible evacuation because of the nuclear threat, only days after they were warned about the tsunami.
The military also said it would help evacuate civilians from the islands, Interfax reported.
The wind in Sakhalin was blowing from the north toward Japan, opposing any release of radioactive materials.
Russia so far doesn't see a need to evacuate its diplomatic personnel from Japan, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
Russia's nuclear chief complained to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that his atomic experts, including a veteran of the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago, haven't been permitted to enter Japan.
First Published: Thursday, March 17, 2011, 00:44