Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Japan: the 'nuclear refugees' who may never go home

Nick Allen reports on the hundreds of people made homeless by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

It is close to midnight in a cavernous Tokyo sports centre and two little girls sit on a traditional tatami mat quietly playing backgammon unable to sleep.

Hinata Sahara, aged eight, and her seven-year-old sister Rikato, are a long way from their home in Fukushima and they have no idea when – or even if – they can ever go back.

They are part of Japan's latest problem, a wave of "nuclear refugees" who have fled as far as they can from the man-made disaster unfolding to the north.

Many hundreds of them, travelling haphazardly by car, bus, train, and foot, have now reached the Japanese capital, 140 miles from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi complex.

Whether they can return depends on the half-life of various radioactive isotopes, and people's confidence in what the government tells them, which is sorely lacking. (read more)