SINGAPORE (AP) -- Oil prices slid below $99 a barrel Tuesday in Asia as traders fled risky investments after a third explosion in three days at an earthquake-damaged Japanese nuclear plant triggered a radiation leak.
Benchmark crude for April delivery was down $2.46 at $98.73 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 3 cents Monday to settle at $101.19 on Monday.
In London, Brent crude was down $2.34 at $111.33 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday radiation that has spread from four reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant was enough to "impact human health" and the risk of more leaks was "very high." The plant was initially damaged during Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami.
Kan urged anyone within 19 miles (30 kilometers) of the plant to stay indoors or risk getting radiation sickness.
Officials said Tuesday they have detected slightly higher-than-normal radiation levels in Tokyo but insisted there are no health dangers.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average plunged as much as 14 percent Tuesday after a 6 percent drop Monday.
"We're seeing a knee-jerk reaction due to this fresh explosion," said Victor Shum, an analyst with energy consultancy Purvin & Gertz in Singapore. "It's uncertain how much radiation is coming out or could affect Tokyo and that's caused this across-the-board market reaction."
In other Nymex trading for April contracts, heating oil was down 1.2 cents at $3.02 a gallon and gasoline dropped 2.3 cents to $2.96 a gallon. Natural gas rose 3.0 cents at $3.92 per 1,000 cubic feet.
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