Couple's brave rescue mission
A GOLD Coast couple living in Japan ventured within 53km of the volatile Fukushima nuclear plant to offer a free ride and somewhere to sleep to some of the country's homeless.
Engineers have been racing to cool the stricken Fukushima No.1 power station and avoid a nuclear meltdown since it was crippled 13 days ago by a 9-magnitude earthquake and 10-metre tsunami.
Former Tweed Daily News journalist Deirdre Smith and her partner Ross McCain have been living in the Japan's Hakuba Valley for about 16 months.
The pair, who run a bed-and-breakfast called Two Rooms, joined with surrounding businesses to offer accommodation to some of the 200,000 people left homeless by the earthquake and consequent tsunami.
“When our Japanese neighbour heard about our trip he gave us an envelope with 10,000 yen (A$120) ... in it to help out,” Ms Smith said.
On Monday they responded to a call for help from the mayor of Kawauchi and were hoping to evacuate about 60 people.
“Even though we didn't get any people as they wanted to stay there with their neighbours, it was quite an amazing trip,” Ms Smith said.
“We had a tour of a stadium housing 2400 people. They are getting three meals a day, all Japanese food, and the army has set up washrooms. They are incredibly organised.”
Ms Smith said she did not hear one word of complaint.
“We were 53km from the nuclear reactor and needed a special permit to get in,” she said.
“There was nothing on the road except ambulances and fire trucks.
“It was exciting in a scary kind of way.”
Ms Smith said they were told to cover up when in the nuclear plant's exclusion zone, which stretched about 200km.
“We are not getting any local information about the nuclear situation, only the BBC, but we are not worried,” she said.
“We are a long way away.
“I hung around with a Japanese guy skiing the other day and he said ‘ever since World War Two, we live with the possibility of a nuclear accident. But we need nuclear for our power'. He said the same thing about earthquakes and tsunamis. The Japanese had been living with them for 2000 years and they just had to accept it.”
The disaster, Japan's worst crisis since the Second World War, has killed at least 9079 people, with an additional 12,645 missing, with entire communities along the northeast coast swept away.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Monday said containment at three reactors at the Fukushima No.1 plant was intact and the situation appeared to be stabilising. The Japanese Government ordered the halt of consumption and shipments of a range of farm products grown near the facility after health ministry tests found vastly elevated levels of iodine and caesium.