Hospital: Medical workers in protective gear gather around an ambulance taking two of the Fukushima workers to hospital
*Panicked Tokyo residents clear shop shelves of bottled water
*Men stood in irradiated water which seeped through protective gear
*Tokyo convenience stores all but run out of bottled water
*Families with babies get three half-litre bottles of water a day for each infant
*City officials appeal for calm
*Death toll rises to 9,700 while missing number 16,500
Three of the Fukushima Fifty have been rushed to hospital with radiation poisoning as they battle to save Japan's crippled power plant from nuclear meltdown.
Fumio Matsuda, a spokesman for the nuclear safety agency, said the three workers, two in their 20s and one in his 30s, came face to face with the danger they had all feared when contaminated water came into contact with their skin at the Fukushima Dai-chi plant.
Officials said they were standing in irradiated water in the No.3 reactor when it somehow seeped through their protective gear, causing them to be contaminated with a level of radiation almost twice as high as the accepted 'safe' limit.
'This is a very regrettable situation,' Chief Cabinet Secretary Yudio Edano said later today as he described the sketchy details he had received from the plant.
'They were in a basement area of the No.3 reactor, standing in water that was irradiated,' he said.
Mr Matsuda said the workers were exposed to radiation levels of up to 180 millisieverts, which is less than the maximum 250 millisieverts that the government is allowing for workers at the plant.
About two dozen people have been injured since the plant began leaking radiation after suffering tsunami damage on March 11
Meanwhile anxiety over the safety of Tokyo’s tap water continued amid fears it has been contaminated by radiation seeping from the plant.
New readings showed the levels had returned to safe in Tokyo, but were high in two neighbouring prefectures - Chiba and Saitama.
'The first thought was that I need to buy bottles of water,' said Tokyo real estate agent Reiko Matsumoto, mother of five-year-old Reina. 'I also don't know whether I can let her take a bath.'
The Fukushima plant has been leaking radiation since the March 11 quake and tsunami knocked out its crucial cooling systems, leading to explosions and fires in four of its six reactors.
Workers doled out bottled water to Tokyo families today after residents cleared store shelves, forcing many shops to start rationing goods including milk, toilet paper, rice and water.
Anxiety over food and water supplies surged when Tokyo officials reported yesterday that radioactive iodine in the city's tap water was above levels considered dangerous for babies over the long term.
After setbacks and worrying black smoke forced an evacuation, workers were back inside today, said Hidehiko Nishiyama of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
Government spokesman Yukio Edano sought to allay fears over the tap water readings.
'We ask people to respond calmly,' he said at a briefing today. 'The Tokyo metropolitan government is doing its best.'
Households with infants will get three, half-litre bottles of water for each baby - a total of 240,000 bottles - city officials said, begging Tokyo residents to buy only what they need for fear that hoarding could hurt the thousands of people without any water in areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.
Nearly two weeks after the magnitude-9 quake, some 660,000 household still do not have water in Japan's north east, the government said. Electricity has not been restored to some 209,000 homes, Tohoku Electric Power Co said.
The figures were a reminder of the grim humanitarian situation that hundreds of thousands continue to face in the wake of twin disasters that are proving to be the most costly natural disaster on record.
Damages are estimated at up to 309 billion US dollars, the government said.
The number of dead and missing continued to rise: 9,700 dead, with another 16,500 missing, Japan's police agency said today. The figures that may include some overlap.
Hundreds of thousands remain homeless, squeezed into temporary shelters without heat, warm food or medicine and no idea what to call home after the colossal wave swallowed up communities along the coast and dozens of strong aftershocks continued to shake the nation.
Fears about food safety began to spread overseas as radiation seeped into raw milk, seawater and 11 kinds of vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower and turnips, grown in areas around the plant.[dailymail.co.uk]