– Heartbreaking evacuations as Fukushima’s nuclear fallout spreads (ABC NEWS, Tuesday, June 7, 2011):
BRENDAN TREMBATH: Japan has doubled its estimate of the amount of radiation spewed out by the Fukushima nuclear plant in the week after the crisis began. It comes after confirmation that plutonium has been found outside the facility for the first time.
Even before these revelations Japanese authorities were urging residents living just outside the Fukushima no-go zone to leave. Thousands are now packing up and evacuating, fearing radiation in soil and the atmosphere could lead to health problems, especially in children.
One of the districts being evacuated is Iitate, less than 40 kilometres from the crippled plant.
North Asia Correspondent Mark Willacy filed this report for PM.
(High pitched beeping)
MARK WILLACY: It’s a piercing sound you can’t get out of your head, the constant clicking of a Geiger counter. Travelling into Fukushima, just a few dozen kilometres from the crippled nuclear plant, these radiation readers are an essential device.
And it’s clear, looking at the readings in the Iitate district, that it’s time for people to go.
(A cow mooing)
For cattle and crop farmer Takeshi Yamada it means moving his family out of the home they’ve lived in all their lives. It also means selling off his pampered Wagyu cattle.
(Takeshi Yamada speaking)
“At first my anger was boiling, but now it’s passed its peak,” he tells me. “But I still feel very confused because our home wasn’t destroyed by the earthquake or the tsunami. Instead we have to move because of radiation,” the farmer says.
But some here are ignoring the government’s plea to evacuate voluntarily.
Yoshitada Yamada runs a small semi-conductor business which supplies some of Japan’s biggest car and electronics firms. And while half of his employees have packed up and left Iitate, others are hanging in there.
(Yoshitada Yamada speaking)
“Although this area was designated an evacuation zone, my workers wanted to continue to work here,” he tells me. “So we use a Geiger counter to check radiation levels twice a day,” he says.
Yoshitada Yamada is among several hundred Iitate residents out of a total population of 6,000 who are refusing to budge. Those who are leaving go not knowing when they’ll be allowed back.
Until this nuclear disaster, Fukushima was celebrated for its farm products. Now, like Chernobyl, it will be associated with radioactive contamination.
(Takeshi Yamada speaking)
“Yes I worry about that,” says farmer Takeshi Yamada. “Unfortunately it’s not just rumour but fact because readings show a high level of radioactivity in vegetables from here. I don’t think we’ll be able to grow anything from here for at least 10 years,” he says.
For the people of Fukushima, leaving is hard enough; not knowing when they’ll be able to return is even more painful.
This is Mark Willacy in Fukushima for PM.