Japan braced with fear, preparing for the worst
17 Mar, 2011 04:40
As fears of spreading radiation escalate, many are escaping Japan, leaving their homes and holiday plans behind. However, for those who stay, the future looks more than uncertain.
The sheer force of the tsunami is hard to comprehend: houses and vehicles were bent at impossible angles by water power. Many of those who survived the disaster say they had never experienced such a powerful earthquake before.Journalists are not allowed along the devastated coast: the police are on high alert in the area. People are generally ready for the worst, which might hit any minute.RT correspondent Ivor Bennet, who is currently in Japan, has himself experienced what it means to be in the midst of the crisis.“Suddenly there was panic: warnings of a five-meter wall of water heading our way. We sped inland as fast as possible, chased by others,” he said. “The last wave took just nine minutes after the earthquake to reach eight kilometers inland, we did not have long. This was a false alarm, but those already on their knees are bracing themselves for more.”At a relief center in the city of Sendai, the newly homeless are given blankets and a cardboard sheet. All 19 floors of the building are full, with everyone from infants to the elderly.Nights spent in the center are not particularly welcoming: bitterly cold and for some, sleepless. However, for many this place may be home for weeks to come.Everyone has a story to tell about their moment of terror.“You are thinking that this is it basically, you know?,” said Daniel Villeneuve from Miyagi Prefecture Board of Education. “You are just waiting to hear a bang and waiting for the floor to give out underneath you.”Mass exodus amid radiation fearsFirst an earthquake, then the tsunami, now radiation.Roadblocks around the troubled Fukushima power plant appeared as early as Saturday. Since then, the fear has been steadily building, just like the queues.Many motorists are hurrying to fill up their cars with gasoline, fearing fuel shortages are soon to come. It may not be visible hysteria, but the anxiety has prompted essential stockpiling.As the threat escalates, more and more people are leaving either troubled territories or Japan altogether.One young family of three fled their hometown of Sendai to save their baby boy, who was just five days old when the earthquake struck.“The only thing I thought of when it happened was, ‘I have to save my baby,’” said Risa Yamamoto, the mother. “That is why I have left Sendai. I am scared for my baby and I do not want him to get ill. It can have a very negative effect on him.”Most tourists have been trying to escape Japan as fast as possible. When it comes to radiation, many are not sure the Japanese government is telling the full story and most are not willing to stay and find out.Nuclear expert Ronald Ballinger from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says there is little likelihood of a meltdown.“I’m sitting here looking at the latest radiation surveys, which anybody can go online and get. And the dose rates at the 20 kilometer limit – I don’t have anything inside that – they are very, very, very low,” Ballinger said. “Normal [radiation level] is effectively zero, and so 20 times normal I’m reading numbers like 0.1 millirem per hour at the 20-kilometer line. And to put that in perspective, you would get 0.3 or 0.5 millirem just flying from Los Angeles to Boston.”