Source: economist    2011-06-05  我要投稿   论坛   Favorite  

As the quake lifted the ocean floor, it triggered a tsunami (the word is Japanese) that breached with ease some of what were considered to be Japan’s best coastal defences. As of March 17th the police said at least 14,000 people were dead or missing along the coast, though that fails to account for the tens of thousands who are unreported to the authorities, supposed lost, in places like Rikuzentakata. As many as half a million are in emergency shelters, shivering through a bitterly cold snowstorm that has added to the sense of crisis. Because of damaged roads, petrol shortages and bungling bureaucrats, many lack essentials such as food, water, toilet paper, nappies and kerosene for heating. A shocking number appear to be in their 90s, looked after by people who are themselves grandmothers and grandfathers. Amid the debris in Rikuzentakata, a 62-year-old woman wearing trainers was prodding around for her 94-year-old aunt. The president of a nearby construction company had tried to help the aunt escape, but he too was washed away. Her niece had been searching fruitlessly for her every day since March 12th.


Appalling as these people’s plights are, they have been eclipsed for most of the week by fear of an altogether different sort: that of a meltdown in the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear-power plant, some 240km north-east of Tokyo. Nuclear experts say the potential danger to human health from the three stricken reactors has so far been blown out of proportion—especially when set against the wider-spread suffering of the tsunami victims. But there is a gnawing sense that Japan, the only country to have suffered mass radiation from atomic attack (and hence an expert in its consequences for long-term health), may be on the verge of another nuclear nightmare. Inevitably, the latest crisis will renew debate about the wisdom of building nuclear-power plants on such unstable and exposed terrain. Experts, however, can barely imagine Japan meeting its energy needs without them.


A government under siege四面楚歌的政府
The palpable fear of the unknown can be heard in the words of Katsunobu Sakurai, the mayor of Minamisoma. His town straddles the 20km exclusion zone surrounding the Fukushima plant, as well as the 30km circle in which as many as 136,000 people are being urged to stay indoors to avoid radiation. Speaking by telephone to NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, on March 16th, he said that people were now “trying their best to stay calm”, but many would flee the area altogether if they could only find fuel to make the journey. He said the most basic supplies were running short because outsiders were not willing to transport them to the danger zone. Whenever he is interviewed, he begs the government for help.



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