Sunday Telegraph – Japan tsunami: Fukushima Fifty, the first interview
Exclusive: in their own words, members of the Fukushima Fifty – the emergency crew tackling Japan’s nuclear crisis – tell of the dangers and fears they face
At a ruined port close to the leaking nuclear reactors, and a fire station in suburban Tokyo, The Sunday Telegraph became the first newspaper to track down the Fukushima workers. They turned from faceless supermen into real, scared people with names and families. They told of frightening work in narrow, dark spaces, of their fear and the fear of their loved ones, but of their determination to go on.
“It was just pitch black,” said Kazuhiko Fukudome, who led a company from Tokyo Fire Brigade’s Hyper Rescue Squad to the collapsing number 3 reactor as it started to melt down. “It was the middle of the night and all we had to see with were our own head torches. We could see smoke and vapour coming up from the reactor. Everything else had failed, so they called us in to pump seawater to try to cool the thing. We don’t even work for the government, but for the city of Tokyo. They were desperate. They must have been on their last legs.”
The squad’s riskiest mission began with a phone call at 11pm. “I was at home,” Mr Fukudome said. “It was a very simple call – they just said gather your men and get to Fukushima, and then they hung up. I turned to my wife and said, ‘I’m going to Fukushima.’ She looked shocked, but then she put on her calm face and she just said, ‘Take care.’ She knows that if she keeps a brave face, it helps me.”
Did he have a message for the people reading this story? “All I can think about now is being able to keep going,” he said. “We’re fighting every day. Please keep supporting us.”
And finally finally, because it’s just…:
Workers told how the earthquake ripped through the plant, immediately knocking out the main power. A ghastly boom was heard in the suppression chamber of reactor 4, said Kenji Tada, who was there at the time. Cracks started ripping in the asphalt and the sides of the building. They fled before the tsunami arrived and did its worst. As the situation deteriorated, the first explosion, at reactor 3 on March 14, happened at the precise moment that six soldiers from the Japanese Central Nuclear Biological Chemical Weapon Defence Unit arrived at the reactor in two vehicles. The six of them are now dead, buried under flying concrete.