News / Asia

In Japan, Evacuation Aid Pleas Dismissed

American family caught up in online fundraising controversy after site raises $7,500 for son, grandchildren based in Chiba prefecture

Mourners in protective suits hold flowers at memorial for residents of Okuma, a small town near Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, Japan, July 2011.
Mourners in protective suits hold flowers at memorial for residents of Okuma, a small town near Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, Japan, July 2011.
SEOUL -- In Japan this past year, there has been a passionate argument about the effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster that has played out on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites.
 
Anti-nuclear activists have joined skeptics of the government's safety pledges in alleging a conspiracy of lies and cover-ups about the danger posed by radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant.
 
Environmental group Greenpeace International says Japanese authorities have “consistently appeared to underestimate both the risks and extent of radioactive contamination.” But the group has not reported any cases of radiation poisoning.

This week one American family in Japan became caught up in the controversy after its appeal on an online fundraising site raised $7,500 in funds for their evacuation.
 
Carol Swift, of Overland Park, Kansas, the mother of Joshua Swift of Inzai, Japan, on YouCaring.com had set a goal of raising $25,000 by August 31 because her three grandchildren "are sick from radiation poisoning and the food source has been compromised" as a result of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.
 
The online appeal listed various medical ailments affecting the family including autoimmune diseases affecting all three children.
 
The family's evacuation plea sparked a flurry of comments on social media sites. While some sympathized with the Swifts, other were less charitable calling them naïve alarmists or con artists.
 
"It was probably a mistake putting that on the Internet," says Joshua Swift, who now is appealing to the online detractors to "just leave us alone and let us go."
 
The appeal on YouCaring.com was delisted Monday following the criticism on social media and other online sites, although the appeal remains archived online.
 
Swift says the Internet appeal was not intended to be public and claims that all of the money raised came solely from "family and friends." He said it was not possible for the family to immediately evacuate because he wanted to continue to make mortgage payments on his home in Inzai, a city of 90,000 people, in Chiba Prefecture.
 
Physicist-turned historian Spencer Weart is not surprised by heightened fears about low-level radiation.
 
Weart, whose latest book “The Rise of Nuclear Fear” was published in March, blames the Japanese government’s flawed assurances of the safety of its nuclear plants and denial of problems by regulators for creating a situation “where most Japanese distrust anything they [officials] say.”
 
The Swifts' claim of radiation poisoning quickly triggered a flurry of comments on Twitter after it was noted and analyzed on a blog site, Japan Probe.
 
Swift acknowledges no physician has diagnosed the children as being sickened by radiation. He said no doctor in Japan "would be allowed to," alluding to a supposed cover-up of the health effects resulting from one of the world's worst nuclear accidents.
 
Another American living in Inzai is not worried.
 
“I've had independent [radiation] readings taken by Safecast and Hakette.jp. There is no danger in Inzai with radiation sickness,” says Mark Alan Williams, an international business coordinator with a Japanese corporation. “There are new homes being built in my neighborhood and a Costco [warehouse store] is planned for Inzai too. I have no immediate sense of danger at all.”
 
Chiba Prefecture ordered the halt of shipments of shiitake mushrooms grown in Inzai on February 23 of this year, a day after 993 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium, exceeding the national provisional limit of 500 becquerels/kg, was detected on the mushrooms.
 
Weart, the former director of the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics, says extensive measurements by both governmental and independent entities show that except for a small region in Fukushima Prefecture, living in Japan and eating Japanese food “do not pose big health problems. The medical problems the (Swift) family has are not the kind that is usually traced to radiation."
 
There has been no credible scientific evidence presented that any humans have been sickened by radiation in Japan following the March 2011 reactor meltdowns. Japan's government also says no one has been harmed by radiation exposure because of the accident.

Japan on Saturday took the last of its 50 commercial working reactors offline for routine maintenance amid a safety drive following last year's disaster triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami. It is the first time the country is without nuclear power since 1970.
_____
VOA Correspondent Steve Herman has reported extensively from Fukushima since the nuclear disaster in March, 2011.

Steve Herman

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

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid