Japan In Crisis
Japanese Victims Flee Area Near Power Plant
Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:09 am
After another explosion and fire was reported at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japan's prime minister announced in a televised address that those living within about a 20-mile radius of the nuclear complex should stay inside their homes.
But many people did the exact opposite. Some packed their cars, others got into buses — and residents simply headed west.
At Curry House, just off a main road in Koriyama, most of the items on the menu had been crossed off with a blue marker — showing what you couldn't get. Only two dishes were available because of food shortages.
Reiko, who didn't want to give her last name, sat with her family, about to eat. She said they had just arrived from Iwaki, near the coast and not far from the troubled nuclear plant. She said she didn't know if she had been contaminated by radioactive materials, but she will soon find out when she gets checked.
When the nuclear plants were built, she says, they were told that even if an earthquake occurred, there would be little or no damage. Now the "worst situation" has happened, she says.
On Flights Out, 'No Seats'
At the airport, university student Toshihide Hosomi arrived from Sendai, one of the hardest-hit areas. He said he barely escaped the tsunami.
"I saw people ... just scared," he said. "Most people escaped from the tsunami."
Most people who were close to him escaped. But it is estimated that some 10,000 people were killed.
People have been arriving at the airport since the weekend. Many have been sleeping there for several nights, trying to get flights out. Now, it's even more packed.
Tomoyuki Hanida, with All Nippon Airways, said everyone is trying to fly away from the disaster zones. But the flights are all full, sold out.
"No seats," he said. "Stay here tonight — they will sleep."
Four English teachers — two from the U.S., one from Australia and one from Ireland — have another plan. They won't be getting on planes anytime soon, but perhaps a bus can take them farther south — closer to trains, then possibly to Tokyo for international flights out of Japan.
But for Takeshi Munakata, Koriyama is home. He's not leaving.
"I love Fukushima. I love Japan," he says. "No problem. ... I believe in Japan, Japan technology. I die, OK, no problem."
It seems fatalistic, but he says that's the Japanese way.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
First, there was the earthquake; then, the tsunami; and now, the crisis in Japan is only getting more complicated. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant suffered a third explosion and a fire.
SIEGEL: Japan's prime minister spoke on television urging anyone within a 20-mile radius of the nuclear complex to stay inside.
NPR's Doualy Xaykaothao says people did the exact opposite. Some packed their cars; others got into buses and headed west; many, toward Koriyama City.
(Soundbite of music)
DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: At this curry house just off a main road in Koriyama, most of the items on the menu had been marked off with a blue marker showing, well, what you couldn't get. Only two dishes were available because of food shortages.
Reiko, who didn't want to give her last name, had a facemask on, sitting with her sister and her family about to eat.
REIKO: I guess for one hour.
(Soundbite of laughter)
REIKO: Just, yeah, just we arrived here.
XAYKAOTHAO: They came from Iwaki, near the coast and not far from the troubled nuclear plant.
REIKO: According to the news, government said just live inside the house. That, I cannot believe it.
XAYKAOTHAO: She says she doesn't know if she's been contaminated by radioactive materials, but she'll soon find out when she gets checked for radiation.
REIKO: Since those plants were built, we were told that big earthquake won't happen, because the Earth is very hard. Even though the earthquake occurs, there will be no damage or little damage. That actually worst occasion - worst situation happened.
XAYKAOTHAO: For university student Toshihide Hosomi, the earthquake and tsunami, plus the explosions at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, make for a very, very bad movie.
Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)
XAYKAOTHAO: He just arrived here at the airport from Sendai, the hardest-hit area. He said he barely escaped the tsunami.
Mr. TOSHIHIDE HOSOMI: (Through Translator) I saw people just as scared. Most people escaped from the tsunami.
XAYKAOTHAO: Well, most people who were close to him. It is estimated that some 10,000 people were killed.
Since the weekend, people have been arriving at the airport, and many have already been sleeping here for several nights, trying to get flights out. Now, it's even more packed.
Tomoyuki Hanida is with All Nippon Airways. He says the people are all trying to fly away from the disaster zones.
Mr. TOMOYUKI HANIDA (All Nippon Airways): They want to go out from Fukushima to another place, due to Sendai, Iwaki, Aomori.
XAYKAOTHAO: But the flights are all full, sold out.
Mr. HANIDA: No seats. So they stay here tonight. (Unintelligible).
XAYKAOTHAO: Four English teachers - one from Ireland, one from Australia, two from the U.S. - have another plan. They also traveled from Iwaki City. This is Graham Daly(ph), Samantha Chalice(ph), Danielle Lagara(ph) and Nastajah DiFridio(ph).
Mr. GRAHAM DALY: Well, I've actually been impressed with is just that people have been very calm, very sensible. No one is losing their heads and being an idiot. It's just good to see no mass panic.
Ms. SAMANTHA CHALICE: We were there this morning (unintelligible) the supermarkets are getting supplies in. The lorries were coming in. We don't have running water.
Unidentified Woman #2: There's no running water, though.
Ms. CHALICE: Yeah. It's coming back. So we just chose...
Ms. DANIELLE LAGARA: (Unintelligible).
Ms. CHALICE: ...to leave.
Mr. DALY: Essentially our decision to leave is more like, you know, rather be safe than sorry.
Ms. LAGARA: And we couldn't help anyways. We couldn't help clean up.
Ms. NASTAJAH DIFRIDIO: We're just going with what the government is saying, and they're saying that we're out of the radius so just don't go outside, but I think we're fine.
XAYKAOTHAO: They won't be getting on planes any time soon, but perhaps a bus can take them farther south and closer to trains, then possibly to Tokyo for international flights out of Japan.
But for Takeshi Munakata, Koriyama is home. He's not leaving.
Mr. TAKESHI MUNAKATA: I love Fukushima. I love Japan. No problem.
XAYKAOTHAO: What do you mean no problem?
Mr. MUNAKATA: No problem. I believe in Japan, Japan technology. (Foreign language spoken), OK, no problem.
XAYKAOTHAO: It seems fatalistic, but he says that's the Japanese way.
For NPR News, I'm Doualy Xaykaothao in Koriyama City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.