‘Scene from hell’: Panic hits Tokyo; 70,000 flee nuclear zone

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
By Paul Martin

Philippine Daily Inquirer

TOKYO—Canned goods, batteries, bread and bottled water vanished from store shelves and some residents began to leave, as panic swept Tokyo on Tuesday and the government ordered thousands living near an earthquake-crippled nuclear power plant to stay indoors and avoid radiation sickness.

Some 70,000 people residing within a 20-kilometer radius from the disabled Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station northeast of the capital have already evacuated and 140,000 remain in the danger zone.

The widening cloud of radiation has added to the misery of millions of people in the devastated northeast.

The humanitarian crisis facing Japan following Friday’s ferocious earthquake and tsunami was unfolding on multiple fronts—from a sudden rise in orphaned children to shortages of water, food, medicine and electricity to overflowing toilets in packed shelters and erratic care of traumatized survivors.

$620B wiped out

“It’s a scene from hell, absolutely nightmarish,” Patrick Fuller of the International Red Cross Federation said from the northeastern coastal town of Otsuchi.

As concern about the crippling economic impact of the nuclear and earthquake disasters mounted, Japanese stocks fell as much as 14 percent before ending down nearly 11 percent, compounding a slide of 7.6 percent the day before.

The two-day fall has wiped some $620 billion off the market.

Financial analysts said the economic losses from the disaster, estimated at over $180 billion, could tip the world’s third-biggest economy back into recession.

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