News / Asia

Japan on Edge About Nuclear Accident

People stand in line at a bus terminal in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture on March 16, 2011.
People stand in line at a bus terminal in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture on March 16, 2011.

The Japanese government continues to assure citizens that a worsening nuclear crisis poses no radiation threat to those outside an already established evacuation zone.  However, not everyone is buying it.  A small but worried slice of the population is on the move. 

Japan woke up Wednesday morning to more bad news: rising radiation levels at a crippled nuclear power plant and white smoke billowing from one of its reactor buildings.

For some people it was too much.

At Tokyo railway station, a small-but-steady stream of people were heading to bullet trains to travel west, away from the capital and the nuclear plant.

Satoshi Makishima was on his way to Osaka, Japan's second biggest city, with his girlfriend and her cat.

He says he is nervous about the nuclear problems and thinks the government and power company is only providing about 80 percent of the full picture.

Foreign residents have also been leaving the country. Nick Stantzos was taking a train to the airport, on his was home to Greece.

"The situation, as I see it, is not really improving and, although I don't think it's really going to be a big problem in the end, my family back home is really worried and also myself.  The last few days have been really stressful," he said.

Embassies keeping close eye

Foreign embassies in Tokyo are closely monitoring the situation.  Both the United States and Britain say their own specialists agree with the steps being taken by the Japanese authorities.  They are urging citizens to follow local instructions.   However, many people who call Japan home are worried.

U.S. Consul General Paul Fitzgerald says his embassy has been fielding a large number of calls from American  citizens in Japan and their families overseas.

"People are calling with concerns.  But I would call it just a concern at this point.  We've seen nothing beyond that," Fitzgerald said.

Evacuations

The situation has been assessed differently by other countries.  France is sending aircraft to evacuate its citizens and Australians have been advised to leave the Tokyo metropolitan area unless they absolutely need to stay. Australia says its advice is based on continuing aftershocks and disruptions to infrastructure and is not based on the nuclear accident.

Most of Tokyo's 13 million population is staying put.  On Wednesday, the government urged them not to hoard food and gasoline, saying supplies are sufficient.

In supermarkets, many store shelves are empty of fresh produce, either because deliveries have been disrupted or because shoppers snap it up when it arrives.  There are also queues to buy gasoline.

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