News / Asia

Fear of Potential Invisible Killer Near Japanese Nuclear Site

An aerial view shows the quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in the Japanese town of Futaba, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, run by Tokyo Electric Power, March 12, 2011
An aerial view shows the quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in the Japanese town of Futaba, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, run by Tokyo Electric Power, March 12, 2011

An eerie silence has descended over this northeastern Japanese city. Tens of thousands have evacuated their homes a day after one of the worst-ever recorded earthquakes and subsequent tsunami, which swallowed coastal villages.

The greatest fear here, right now, stems not from the continuing aftershocks and the ongoing tsunami warnings, but rather a silent and invisible potential killer.

One or more nuclear reactors in Fukushima may be close to, or have suffered a meltdown.  A reactor wall has apparently collapsed at one reactor, injuring four people there Saturday afternoon.

This is, after all, the country said to suffer a "nuclear allergy" from its experience, at the close of World War II, of having uranium and plutonium bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

The trauma of nuclear defeat left a scar salved with the moral high ground of pacifism and Japan disavowing itself of any development of nuclear weaponry.

But when it has come to electrical power generation, Japan has taken a different path, embracing atomic power as a way to compensate for a paucity of natural resources needed to generate ample energy for its post-war economic recovery.

The nuclear energy industry helped propel Japan to becoming the world's second largest economy (it only recent slipped to third place, behind the United States and China).

Japan built more than 50 such power plants, despite concerns among some Japanese that nuclear reactors and earthquake fault lines were not a comfortable combination.

Now the sum of all those fears is a distinct reality. While residents evacuate, battalions of rescue workers, both domestic and foreign are heading for Fukushima.

This city, despite the ominous nuclear threat, is the staging ground for what will likely prove to be one of the largest-ever search and rescue efforts in human history.

Fukushima is the closest significant airport still open to the worst-hit areas.

The tsunami along the coast, 30 kilometers east, swallowed entire communities - many already severely damaged by Friday's magnitude 8.9 quake - in a few minutes. The devastation was recorded on video by military and media helicopter crews who hovered above the unbelievable scene, helpless to intervene.

More than 50 countries have already pledged aid to Japan. Most will fly into Fukushima and fan out towards the north and east for a search and recovery operation likely to go on for weeks.

Many of the bodies, washed out to sea, will never be found.  Some survivors will be severely traumatized, injured and hungry.  A lucky few are certain to be pried loose beneath collapsed buildings.  It is a drama we have viewed over the years in such diverse places as Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia, China and, just weeks ago, New Zealand.

In the days ahead, we will bring you glimpses of this tragedy from on location. Usually, the reporter's eye is supposed to be unblinking and the prose without passion. But certainly, this time the eye will glisten with tears as we collectively mourn the lost ones, and then shed more tears as we share the happiness when some of the survivors are reunited with loved ones.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid