National

Many foreigners in Fukushima fled after crisis, news reporting questioned

KYODO

A nonprofit group’s interviews with foreign nationals who were living in Fukushima Prefecture at the time the nuclear catastrophe started in March 2011 determined that more than two-thirds left for their home countries or relocated elsewhere in Japan, at least temporarily.

The Fukushima International Association said its survey also showed the foreigners it polled were troubled by differences in domestic and foreign media coverage and that most of them relied on TV more than radio because of language barriers.

Of 70 foreigners verbally interviewed by the association who were living in the prefecture in late 2012, 51 said they had evacuated. Of them, 29 left for their home countries, while 21 moved out of the prefecture and one within the prefecture.

While simple comparisons are hard to make, this represents a disproportionately high ratio of evacuees when compared with the entire population of the prefecture.

According to the prefectural government, up to around 164,200 people had relocated by May 2012, accounting for 8 percent of the overall population of 2 million.

Of the 100 foreigners given survey questionnaires, 53 had known the prefecture hosted nuclear power stations before the March 11, 2011, quake and tsunami that triggered the crisis.

At the end of 2010, 11,190 foreign residents were living in the prefecture. Just over 60 percent were either Chinese or Filipino. The total had dropped to 9,489 at the end of last June.

Of the 100 surveyed, 88 said they got information from TV during the crisis, versus more than the 30 who cited radio.

One man said, “Japanese newspapers were slower in providing information than media in my home country and were not trusted very much. I relied on information from my home country.”

He also said the community radio service provided instructions for evacuation but it was hard to understand the information.

Many others had trouble understanding the situation even when they watched television. One person could not understand why then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano was giving a daily press conference with a “serious look” on TV.

“I learned from television that I probably needed to evacuate. But I was worried, not knowing where the nuclear power plant was and also about radiation,” another respondent said.