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Weary Japanese Evacuees Wait For Information

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Weary Japanese Evacuees Wait For Information

Weary Japanese Evacuees Wait For Information

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To Japan now and the city of Aizuwakamatsu. It sits in a basin about 60 miles west of the severely crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. The city is surrounded by snowy mountains and is known locally for its samurai traditions and ancient castle.

NPR's Doualy Xaykaothao is there, along with about 5,000 evacuees.


DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: "The Lion King" movie just ended, and the credits are rolling, but not one person in this high school gym is watching. It's a small evacuation center at a technical high school called Aizu Kogyo Koko. Only about 75 people are registered at this shelter, and probably there's no audience because the volunteers have played it too many times.


XAYKAOTHAO: There are 446 other shelters in the Fukushima prefecture similar to this one, with about 131,000 evacuees.

Yamano Satoshi is the assistant principal. He looks almost like Mr. Rogers, with thick eyebrows and a big sweater.

YAMANO SATOSHI: (Through translator) He wants to make more comfortable environmental here.

XAYKAOTHAO: This is not your job, right? You're a teacher, not a disaster coordinator.

SATOSHI: (Through translator) Now it's emergency situation. So he is like a disaster coordinator.

XAYKAOTHAO: Is it hard?


XAYKAOTHAO: Satoshi says this is a new experience for him, adding it's psychologically and physically exhausting. I'm trying to do the best I can, he says, and properly, orderly.

SATOSHI: (Speaking foreign language).

XAYKAOTHAO: He says: At first, everyone was glued to the television, afraid of a nuclear meltdown following the earthquake and tsunami. People were heavy- hearted. But little by little, it's gotten better, he stresses. It's important that they see me being calm, he says. It helps them stay calm.

Just beyond the rustle of volunteers emptying the trash sits Yoshiro and Yukie Tadano and their three kids. They evacuated from Minamisoma, north of Tomioka. Ten-year-old Atsumi Tadano, their youngest child, explains they didn't leave their home because of the tsunami or earthquake.

ATSUMI TADANO: (Through translator) Because of the radiation. She thinks the radiation is not good for health.

XAYKAOTHAO: The Tadano family has been here for five days. They're bone-tired. Asked if she needs anything, Atsumi nods her head.

TADANO: (Through translator) She need novels, books.

XAYKAOTHAO: Her parents say what they need most right now is gasoline. And...

YUKIE TADANO: (Through translator) They need more clear information for food, gasoline and lifeline. They really, really need clear information.

XAYKAOTHAO: A volunteer physical therapist gives Haruko Seino a massage. Her knees have been badly hurting since she arrived here three days ago from the coastal city of Futaba, right near the nuclear complex.

HARUKO SEINO: (Through translator) If it's possible, she wants to be here a long, long time. But she doesn't know the situation.

XAYKAOTHAO: And that's the problem now: Evacuees just don't have enough information to make a decision about what's to come and what do next.

Until then, Yamano Satoshi, the assistant principal turned disaster coordinator, must keep following what he calls the Japanese spirit.

Doualy Xaykaothao, NPR News, Aizuwakamatsu, Japan.

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