TEMPORARY HOME This sports hall has become a temporary home for 340 Japanese who have been forced to leave their homes. There are telephones, computers, showers, doctors and food here.
Photo: Yoshi Fukuda
”Iodine pills? No, we don’t have that”
A large sports hall in Northern Tokyo has been transformed into a temporary home for people who have had to flee the areas around Fukushima. Tokyoites have donated food, blankets and other necessities to the evacuees who express relief about finally having safely arrived to the capital.
– Iodine tablets? No, no, we don’t have that, says Hayasaki who works for the city of Tokyo and bows apologetically.
– Evacuees are tested for radioactivity on a voluntary basis and such tests are only recommended for people coming from the area nearest the nuclear plant, in the 30km zone.
Every family is separated from each other with shields and they have built up their homes on mattresses in the sports hall. Slippers are arranged in proper order at the end of the futons. Here are telephones and computers for the evacuees to use, showers, medical help and food.
A mother feeds her baby. A child is playing with his green ball. Many people are sleeping, wrapped up in blankets and sleeping bags. Others are playing cards, reading the newspaper, watching television or checking their emails. A young man is doing press-ups. Everything is quiet, calm and well-organized.
So far, 340 people have arrived to the sports hall but the numbers are expected to rise.
Satoko, 69, shows the number plate that she has gotten to be able to move about freely: 313.
– I have become a number, she says and laughs.
Then her eyes fill up with tears. She is constantly afraid of new earthquakes and she talks quickly and uncoordinated about the terrifying events last week when the earth started to shake.
She crawled out of her home and encountered firemen warning her about the tsunami. She fled with her sister in their car to the top of a hill from where they saw the wave rush in over the countryside. And then came the alarms about radioactive particles.
Satoko has a strong need to talk. She laughs and cries intermittently as she expresses a deep gratefulness for having been so nicely welcomed by the Tokyoites. She arrived two days ago in the company of her sister and her sister’s family.
Midori, 10, would normally have graduated from 4th grade this week. Instead she is playing with her younger siblings in the sports hall. Her mother Miwako explains that the girl has had nightmares of the earthquake. Her youngest daughter Akane, 3, was taken to the hospital for breathing difficulties. Today it is the grandfather, 84 years old, who has been taken ill. They are all tired and weary.
Mitsuko, 65, comes from Namie-cho, only a few kilometres away from the nuclear plant. She is worried about those who have been left behind. Without access to a car or to petrol, they cannot get anywhere now that bus and train services have stopped.
They do not have any electricity or running water and less and less food is available. Isolated from the rest of the world, they tell neighbours and friends over the telephone that they feel completely powerless. They do not dare to go outside and there are many old people who have troubles walking and need their supply of medication.
– They have survived an earthquake and a tsunami but now it is perhaps the risk for radiation that will lead to their death, says Mitsuko.
The ministry of health has cancelled a trip that doctors were assigned to make to the concerned area in Fukushima to help those who are still there. It was deemed too dangerous to approach the nuclear plant.