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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Exodus from a nuclear nightmare: Thousands flee as they question whether Japan's government is telling them truth about reactors


Exodus: Hundreds of vehicles snake out of the shadow of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant

Hundreds of vehicles sped out of the shadow of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant yesterday.

Those inside the cars and trucks were fleeing for their lives, terrified about what might happen next and reluctant to believe anything their government was telling them.

‘We knew it was close by, but they told us over and over again that it was safe, safe, safe,’ said 70-year-old evacuee Fumiko Watanabe.

‘People are worried that we aren’t being told how dangerous this stuff is and what really happened.’

Meanwhile scores of terrified residents began to flee Tokyo as the power plant threatened to send a cloud of radioactive dust across Japan.

Even in Yamagata city itself, some 60 miles from the plant, residents were fearful of contamination.

Bustle: Passengers wait to leave at the Tokyo International Airport, some on any plane they can

As smoke billowed from the nuclear facility, 56-year-old shopkeeper Takeo Obata said: ‘When the winds blow from the south-east you can smell the sea air.

‘So if we can smell the sea, don’t you think we will be able to smell that poisonous air? What are these people doing to us?’

Japan’s prime minister Naoto Kan was also furious. He was not told immediately about the latest explosion yesterday in one of the reactors, and is reported to have asked the plant’s operators, Tokyo Electric,

Screening: Evacuees are screened for radiation exposure at a testing center as fallout fears spread

Aftershocks rocked the north-east region again yesterday, raising concerns that further damage would be caused to the already-weakened container walls of four reactors.

Two 20ft holes have been blasted in the wall of reactor number four’s outer building after the last explosion.

‘I can’t believe them now. Not at all. We can see the damage to our houses, but radiation? We have no idea what is happening. I am so scared.’

Others had only one objective – to escape the area around the plant. ‘I don’t care where I end up,’ said one driver as he joined a massive queue for petrol on the road to Tokyo. ‘I just want to get as far away from this place as I can.’

Life and death: A baby is checked for signs of radiation, left, as others get checked in Koriyama City, near Fukushima, right, right

As residents were evacuated from the area around the Fukushima plant, they were screened for radiation exposure.

Experts in white and yellow protective suits passed geiger counters over thousands – even young babies – who had fled from their homes to camp in huge evacuation centres.

Some declared that they could no longer believe what their government was telling them. ‘We want the truth,’ said Yoshiaki Kawata, a 64-year-old farmer who lives in a hillside village in neighbouring Yamagata prefecture.

Heartbreak: Women wail together after hearing the death of family members at an evacuation center in Kesennuma

Tragic: A woman reacts to news that a loved one has died, left, and a picture of family members sits atop the rubble of a destroyed home, right

Officials of Tokyo Electric sat side by side in the capital and struggled to answer penetrating questions about the level of danger before government spokesman Yukio Edano admitted that dangerous levels of radioactive substances had been spilled into the atmosphere.

Although the government said the real danger zone was within 19 miles of the plant, the radiation announcement caused panic among those within a radius of 100 miles. This was followed by the warning that anyone inside the radius had to stay indoors.

Should they venture outside, they were ordered to shower and throw away their clothes when they returned.

That order meant some 140,000 were trapped indoors in and around Fukushima. But many were already asking how long they will have to stay there.

Sea change: Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant before the tsunami hit, left, and how it is now, right

‘I left my parents behind,’ said a man who was fleeing in his car with his wife. ‘They didn’t want to leave their home and now they can’t go whether they want to or not.

‘The government needs to tell us how long this is going to last.’

Authorities told residents not to use their own vehicles, said Koji Watanabe, a 60-year-old taxi driver.

But with military vehicles focused on children, the elderly and the disabled, he got fed up waiting and decided to leave in his car.

He and his wife, who has lung cancer, did not have enough fuel to travel far.
Many petrol stations are closed, and those that are open have long queues.

EXCLUSIVE!!!! Anxious Foreigners Flee Japan Nuclear Crisis 2011-03-15

source: dailymail


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