Man who battled Japan's nuclear meltdown dies
July 10, 2013 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Masao Yoshida in November 2011 just before he stepped down as the director of Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
- The manager of Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant dies of cancer
- Masao Yoshida was hailed for containing the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl
- His cancer was thought to be unrelated to radiation exposure
Tokyo (CNN) -- Masao Yoshida, the man in charge of Japan's stricken nuclear plant in the wake of the catastrophic March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, has died of cancer in a Tokyo hospital aged 58.
Yoshida led the "Fukushima 50," the group of men who risked their lives to contain the fallout from the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, which affects the throat, in late 2011 months after the tsunami struck, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the operator of the nuclear facility, said.
The company added it was unlikely his cancer was a result of radiation exposure. They said that the condition usually takes five to 10 years to develop if radiation is to blame.
Fukushima two years later
Rat may have caused nuclear power outage
Nuclear fallout leads to 'ghost town'
"Mr. Yoshida united staff and courageously handled the accident," said Naomi Hirose, TEPCO's chief executive.
Yoshida was at the Fukushima nuclear complex when the tsunami engulfed the cooling system and saw three reactors go into meltdown. In an interview in November 2011, he said he thought several times that he would die.
Defying orders from his bosses, Yoshida made the decision to pump seawater into the No. 1 reactor in a move that may have averted a catastrophic nuclear explosion.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday that Yoshida "made a great effort in the middle of the accident. I wish his soul will rest in peace."
The authorities' handling of the nuclear disaster was widely criticized, with an independent investigation calling it a "man-made disaster" that unfolded as a result of collusion between TEPCO, regulators and the government.
The Fukushima plant remains hazardous more than two years after the earthquake and tsunami.
On Tuesday, TEPCO reported an increase in radiation levels at the plant after a ground water sample collected from an observation well located close to the ocean was found to be contaminated with a radioactive material.
TEPCO said it had started using cement to seal the ground facing the ocean to prevent the contaminated water from reaching the sea.
People we've lost in 2013: The lives they lived
CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki reported from Tokyo, writing by journalist Katie Hunt in Hong Kong
Part of complete coverage on
January 6, 2014 -- Updated 0030 GMT (0830 HKT)
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 0055 GMT (0855 HKT)
Actor James Avery, who played the beloved Uncle Phil on the hit 1990s sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," has died. He was 67.
January 1, 2014 -- Updated 1959 GMT (0359 HKT)
Dr. John W.V. Cordice, the surgeon who operated on Dr. Martin Luther King after he was stabbed in Harlem in 1958, died in Iowa. Cordice was 95.
January 2, 2014 -- Updated 0128 GMT (0928 HKT)
Joseph Ruskin died of natural causes in a Santa Monica, California, hospital. He was 89.
January 1, 2014 -- Updated 2119 GMT (0519 HKT)
Jeffrey Ian Pollack, who directed the popular 1990s films "Booty Call" and "Above the Rim" and produced "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" has died. He was 54.
December 23, 2013 -- Updated 2300 GMT (0700 HKT)
Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Russian gun designer whose AK-47 rifle became the weapon of choice for many national armies and guerrillas around the world, died.
December 22, 2013 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Ned Vizzini, who shot to fame at a young age for his teenage novels focusing on youth depression and anxieties, committed suicide at age 32.
December 19, 2013 -- Updated 2137 GMT (0537 HKT)
Al Goldstein, the foul-mouthed publisher of Screw magazine and pornography pioneer died in New York. He was 77.
December 31, 2013 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
Actor Daniel Escobar, who played a teacher in "Lizzie McGuire," died from complications of diabetes in Los Angeles. He was 49.
December 19, 2013 -- Updated 0041 GMT (0841 HKT)
"Great Train Robber" Ronnie Biggs -- one of the most notorious British criminals of the 20th century -- has died, his publisher told CNN. He was 84.
December 17, 2013 -- Updated 0117 GMT (0917 HKT)
Ray Price, the Nashville star whose trademark "shuffle" beat became a country music staple, has died at age 87, his agent said.
December 17, 2013 -- Updated 0223 GMT (1023 HKT)
Oscar-winning actress Joan Fontaine died, her longtime friend Noel Beutel said. She was 96.
December 16, 2013 -- Updated 1240 GMT (2040 HKT)
Actor Peter O'Toole died peacefully in a hospital at 81 years old.
December 16, 2013 -- Updated 1238 GMT (2038 HKT)
Tom Laughlin, the actor who wrote and starred in the "Billy Jack" films of the 1970s, died at age 82.
December 12, 2013 -- Updated 0056 GMT (0856 HKT)
Jazz guitarist Jim Hall, who played with the jazz greats of the 20th century and influenced the younger ones, has died, his family said. He was 83.
December 10, 2013 -- Updated 1346 GMT (2146 HKT)
Actress Eleanor Parker, nominated for three Oscars and known for her "Sound of Music" role, died Monday at 91, her family said.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 0440 GMT (1240 HKT)
Freedom fighter, statesman, moral compass and South Africa's symbol of the struggle against racial oppression.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 0218 GMT (1018 HKT)
Bill Beckwith, who co-hosted HGTV home-improvement show "Curb Appeal," has died. He was 38.
December 2, 2013 -- Updated 1458 GMT (2258 HKT)
Actor Paul Walker, who shot to fame as star of the high-octane street racing franchise "Fast & Furious," died in a car crash in Southern California. He was 40.
November 30, 2013 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Paul F. Crouch, co-founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network, died at age 79.
November 29, 2013 -- Updated 2342 GMT (0742 HKT)
Jane Kean, who played diverse roles during a long career but was best known as Trixie on the TV revival of "The Honeymooners," has died. She was 90.
November 25, 2013 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
Singer Wayne Mills, whose "outlaw country" songs center on honky-tonk life, died in a Nashville bar shooting.
Today's five most popular stories