Japanese Flee Area Near Nuclear Power Plant

  • Cars drive through the ruins of the leveled city of Minamisanriku, northeastern Japan on Tuesday.
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    Cars drive through the ruins of the leveled city of Minamisanriku, northeastern Japan on Tuesday.
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  • Rescue workers carry a body from the rubble in Rikuzentakata, Iwata prefecture in northeastern Japan on Tuesday.
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  • Civil defense teams search for survivors in Otsuchi, Japan on Tuesday.
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    Civil defense teams search for survivors in Otsuchi, Japan on Tuesday.
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  • Evacuees rest at a shelter in Yamada, Iwate prefecture, in northern Japan on Tuesday.
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    Evacuees rest at a shelter in Yamada, Iwate prefecture, in northern Japan on Tuesday.
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  • A young girl looks out from a bus window as people rush to get out of the city in Yamagata northern Japan on Tuesday.
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  • Japanese military march during a search and rescue mission scouring the rubble of a village in Rikuzentakata, Miyagi prefecture, Japan.
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    Japanese military march during a search and rescue mission scouring the rubble of a village in Rikuzentakata, Miyagi prefecture, Japan.
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  • A boat lies in a street in Hishonomaki, Miyagi prefecture, washed inland by the recent tsunami.
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  • Evacuees exercise at a makeshift shelter in Minamisanriku, northern Japan.
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  • An evacuee is screened for radiation exposure at a testing center in Koriyama city, Fukushima prefecture.
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    An evacuee is screened for radiation exposure at a testing center in Koriyama city, Fukushima prefecture.
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  • Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan told people living up to 12 miles outside an exclusion zone around a quake-hit nuclear plant to stay indoors, as a fire sent radiation to dangerous levels.
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  • Rescuers and victims carry out bags of food aid from a helicopter in Yamada, northern Japan.
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  • A woman carrying a heat blanket leaves a radiation emergency scanning center in Koriyama in Japan.
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  • The shelves of a convenience store are empty in Ofunato, Iwate prefecture, northern Japan.
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    The shelves of a convenience store are empty in Ofunato, Iwate prefecture, northern Japan.
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After another explosion and fire was reported at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japan's prime minister announced in a televised address that those living within about a 20-mile radius of the nuclear complex should stay inside their homes.

But many people did the exact opposite. Some packed their cars, others got into buses — and residents simply headed west.

At Curry House, just off a main road in Koriyama, most of the items on the menu had been crossed off with a blue marker — showing what you couldn't get. Only two dishes were available because of food shortages.

Reiko, who didn't want to give her last name, sat with her family, about to eat. She said they had just arrived from Iwaki, near the coast and not far from the troubled nuclear plant. She said she didn't know if she had been contaminated by radioactive materials, but she will soon find out when she gets checked.

When the nuclear plants were built, she says, they were told that even if an earthquake occurred, there would be little or no damage. Now the "worst situation" has happened, she says.

An evacuee is screened for radiation exposure at a testing center on Tuesday in Koriyama, Japan, after a nuclear power plant on the coast of the Fukushima prefecture was damaged by Friday's earthquake. i i

hide captionAn evacuee is screened for radiation exposure at a testing center on Tuesday in Koriyama, Japan, after a nuclear power plant on the coast of the Fukushima prefecture was damaged by Friday's earthquake.

Wally Santana/AP
An evacuee is screened for radiation exposure at a testing center on Tuesday in Koriyama, Japan, after a nuclear power plant on the coast of the Fukushima prefecture was damaged by Friday's earthquake.

An evacuee is screened for radiation exposure at a testing center on Tuesday in Koriyama, Japan, after a nuclear power plant on the coast of the Fukushima prefecture was damaged by Friday's earthquake.

Wally Santana/AP

On Flights Out, 'No Seats'

At the airport, university student Toshihide Hosomi arrived from Sendai, one of the hardest-hit areas. He said he barely escaped the tsunami.

"I saw people ... just scared," he said. "Most people escaped from the tsunami."

Most people who were close to him escaped. But it is estimated that some 10,000 people were killed.

People have been arriving at the airport since the weekend. Many have been sleeping there for several nights, trying to get flights out. Now, it's even more packed.

Tomoyuki Hanida, with All Nippon Airways, said everyone is trying to fly away from the disaster zones. But the flights are all full, sold out.

"No seats," he said. "Stay here tonight — they will sleep."

Four English teachers — two from the U.S., one from Australia and one from Ireland — have another plan. They won't be getting on planes anytime soon, but perhaps a bus can take them farther south — closer to trains, then possibly to Tokyo for international flights out of Japan.

But for Takeshi Munakata, Koriyama is home. He's not leaving.

"I love Fukushima. I love Japan," he says. "No problem. ... I believe in Japan, Japan technology. I die, OK, no problem."

It seems fatalistic, but he says that's the Japanese way.

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