After major disasters communication breaks down and rumours can get out of control. After the Tokyo earthquake of 1923 Koreans were accused of poisoning wells and many were killed. In spite of our modern telecommunications, some of the same can still be seen after Japan’s 3/11. In Tokyo there has been a wave of panic buying – instant noodles and the like disappearing from shops, and long queues to buy petrol. Fuel shortage in fact has been a major problem in getting relief to survivours of the earthquake.
They’re having a really hard time. Many people had taken refuge in isolated places, with roads destroyed and no fuel for trucks, so had to get through the recent cold wave without enough food, water, heating oil, blankets, medicine… Supplies are only now, a week later, starting to get through to some extent. Many are elderly and already some have died.
Meanwhile the nuclear reactor at Fukushima is an ongoing story. Today they’ve been spraying it with water, which might help cool things down, and are working on getting power back to the coolant pumps. Maybe we can avoid a general meltdown. Fingers crossed. American, Korean and British authorities have apparently told their nationals to evacuate to 80Km from the Nuclear site and many Japanese are trying to do the same. Those who can are said to be moving from Tokyo to cities further west. Some resident foreigners are already leaving the country – apparently the price of an air ticket to Beijing has gone up from the usual ¥30,000 or so to around ¥200,000!
Rumours abound, carried by email, twitter, all the modern tools of communication which are supposed to give people ready access to the truth. Traditional broadcasters are urging people to get their information from radio and TV, and maybe they have a point here.
Of course the worst rumour mill of all is the stock market – everyone wants to be one step ahead so buying and selling turns on a whisper. Yesterday, on the basis that Japanese companies would be wanting to repatriate some of their foreign holdings for reconstruction at home, the yen shot up to a ridiculous rate of 76 to the dollar at one point. It’s back at 82 now, but Tokyo stocks are well down on a week ago…