Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Must Read: Asahi Shinbun "Trap of Prometheus" Series Part 1 - Men in Protective Clothing (11,12) "Who Were Those Men?"

(Installment 1, Installments 2 and 3, Installments 4 and 5, Installment 6, Installments 7 and 8, Installments 9 and 10, Installments 11 and 12)

Asahi Shinbun's series "Trap of Prometheus" - Men in Protective Clothing documents what happened in Namie-machi in Fukushima Prefecture right after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident.

Installment 12 says the district chief still remains in Namie-machi. Part regret, part frustration that his community is now gone. He wonders, along with Mizue Kanno, why the authorities did not tell them about high radiation, when they could and should. The district chief also regrets that he didn't take the warning of the men in protective clothing, as told by Mizue, seriously.

If you read Japanese, you can read all installments (1-12) in one location, at this blog.

Even if the series is written by a reporter at a major Japanese newspaper, not many Japanese are aware of it, which, after the initial launch, was buried in the 3rd page of the printed version. (For more on the "3rd page", go to the note before the Installments 9 and 10, here.)


防護服の男(11) あの2人のおかげで

Men in Protective Clothing (11) Thanks to those two men


25 people who evacuated to Mizue Kanno's house were able to escape from a dangerous situation by evacuating again thanks to the information from the "men in protective clothing" and Mizue's urging.


It was a period of emergency when a large amount of radioactive materials were being dispersed and endangering the residents. But neither the national government nor TEPCO told the residents about it.


However, these 25 people have acted calmly, without panic.


Mizue now lives in the temporary housing in Kori-machi, near Fukushima City.


"Take a look over there", Mizue says, pointing to children in the open space.


"Small children like that will have to live with the hardship as evacuees. What if they've been irradiated on top of it..."


Who were those men in white protective clothing anyway? Mizue still wonders.


At that time, radiation monitoring cars from the Ministry of Education and Science, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan Atomic Energy Agency, TEPCO, and Tohoku Electric Power were all over Fukushima Prefecture.


There was even a monitoring car from Niigata Prefecture. Around the time when the men in white protective clothing visited Mizue in the evening of March 12, the car from Niigata passed through Tsushima District.


Two personnel from Niigata Prefecture came to Fukushima in a wagon in order to support the effort to deal with the nuclear plant accident. They proceeded on Route 114 to enter Namie-machi, and passed through Tsushima District. About 4PM, they were stopped by the police in Kawabusa District and turned back.


The reporter was able to talk with the two. However, they asked me to withhold their names because they suffered internal radiation.


According to them, their radiation survey meter was constantly beeping and they were fretting.


When they passed through Tsushima District, they saw a lot of cars parked. They assumed it was an evacuation shelter.

 「防護服? いいえ、着ていませんでした。車を降りてもいません」

"Protective clothing? No we weren't wearing. We didn't get out of our car, either."


In the early hours of March 14, a monitoring car from National Institute of Radiological Sciences was passing through Tsushima District. There were still many evacuees remaining.


The car carried the radiation measurement equipoment, but according to their PR department, "The purpose was to carry the equipment, and they didn't measure the radiation level."


The two that Mizue met are likely to have been one of those survey teams.


"Because of the warning of the two men, we were able to escape. Why didn't the national government or TEPCO give a warning like that? So many more could have escaped."

(Reporting by Motoyuki Maeda)



Men in Protective Clothing (12) District chief remained


On March 13 when the 25 evacuees at Kanno's house re-evacuated, Hidenori Konno (age 64), district chief of Shimo Tsushima, heard about what the men in white protective clothing had told Mizue, who came to visit him.


But he stayed. He thought he should not run around in confusion without solid information. More than anything else, as the district chief, he felt he couldn't escape before anyone else.


At 10AM on March 15, he was called to the headquarters for countermeasures at the Tsushima Branch, and was told that the Branch would move to Nihonmatsu City.


Why? Wasn't Tsushima safe, being 30 kilometers away from the nuke plant? He couldn't grasp the situation for a while.


The TV was showing the press conference by the national government. Instruction to stay indoors for the residents in 20 to 30 kilometer radius from the plant. The branch personnel were staring into the TV screen. Was this the reason?


In the afternoon, he went to each of the 50 households in Shimo Tsushima, and asked them to evacuate.


Curtains were drawn in most houses and people had already evacuated, but 10 households still remained. He urged evacuation, but was refused. 3 households said to him, "We can't go anywhere because of our cows". There was a bedridden old man.


Konno evacuated his wife (age 55) and his eldest daughter (age 23), and remained in Tsushima.


The district, which had been crowded with many evacuees , went completely silent. At night, rain turned to snow, and the roads were covered with white snow. It was quiet.


There may be households who happened to be away yesterday. So, on March 16, he visited the 50 households again. 5 families who had evacuated had come back.


In one household, they told him they had come back because the wife was wheelchair-bound, and had a hard time at the shelter even to go to the bathroom. The husband said, "It's OK if there's radiation. We're old. We will live here". Konno told them of another shelter that was wheelchair-friendly.


"The community will disappear."


Running around in the empty district in his car, Konno was frustrated.


Konno used to be an official at the prefectural government. He was planning to be active in preserving the local traditional performance art. But his dream was gone now.


Konno borrowed a survey meter from Namie-machi, and he's been measuring the radiation level at each house in the district since July. He mails the results to the residents at their temporary addresses.


It's not that he was asked to do so by the prefectural government or Namie municipal government. It is from his regret. When he heard about the men in protective clothing, if he had known that Tsushima had a high radiation, he would have told people to evacuate more strongly.


Compared to a month ago, weeds infest the front yard of the houses in the district. The plant in the garden of his house died; his late father, who died three years ago, had grown the plant with great care.

(Reporting by Motoyuki Maeda)


Darth3/11 said...

Great job throughout, EX-SKF-san!
Asahi Shimbun should be making these articles available FOR FREE online as a public service and duty to the safety of the human race. Shame on them for charging $11. Most people quite rightly will not pay that. Wish these articles were run as and iPhone ( app!

I'm laboriously downloading all your translations into Word, which promptly wipes out much of the formatting, so lots of labor to make it readable.

Anyway, we can see the forces behind the madness, including making these great articles basically unavailable. Shame on A.S. Do they charge for all their "third page" articles, I wonder?

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