Japan Crisis: The Children of Minamisoma City

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Ian Thomas Ash, originally from New York, is a freelance documentary filmmaker who has lived in Japan for 10 years. When the magnitude-9.0 earthquake hit off the coast of northeastern Japan on March 11, Ian felt its effects in the nation’s capital, Tokyo. The impact of the quake, tsunami and the ongoing threat of radioactive fallout from the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant 150 miles away is taking its toll.

In a recent guest article for Discovery News, Ian documented the impact the ongoing crisis was having on the populace of the nation’s capital. He also wrote about what he saw during a trip to the city of Ishinomaki, one of the many cities hit hard by the tsunami. In April, Ian documented the journey made by a group of volunteers led by three brothers who travel to tsunami-devastated Ishinomaki City. He also interviewed ENS Margaret Morton, who was stationed aboard the Navy destroyer USS Mustin when the earthquake struck.

In this second article of a four-part series, Ian ventures inside the stricken Fukushima power plant’s 30 kilometer radiation exclusion zone with cameraman Colin O’Neill (Discovery News Space Producer Ian O’Neill‘s father) to document the conditions the local population are currently enduring. Part 1, Japan Crisis: Entering the Radiation Zone, was published on May 9.

You can see more of Ian’s documentary work by visiting Ian’s YouTube Channel. He also regularly updates his personal blog, Documenting Ian.

WIDE ANGLE: Japan in Crisis

 

The city of Minamisoma was not only devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but it is now battling a silent threat that is potentially fatal: exposure to the radiation that continues to be released following the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

During the two weeks we spent in the city last month, residents said to us time and time again that they didn’t know who to believe regarding the potential effects of exposure to the abnormally high levels of radiation. It seems that each politician, government scientist and local spokesperson offers different opinions on the possible adverse affects on the city’s residents.

And amidst the chaos and confusion, we learned something unbelievable: the children who remained in the zone just 20-30 kilometers from the damaged nuclear power plant were heading back to school.

Never mind that the zone that these children live in is under orders to stay indoors away from the radioactive particles floating in the air, and that they have been warned about the high levels of radioactive iodine in the rain. We were also shocked to learn that the levels of radiation found in the playground at the school the children would be attending 32 km from the nuclear power plant were not significantly lower than the levels of radiation measured outside the children’s homes that were only 22 km away.

In the second of four parts of a behind-the-scenes look at the two weeks we spent filming in the 20-30 km zone, see some of the children whose lives are being affected by the decisions of the adults in charge.

This is part two.

Camera: Colin O’Neill

More by Ian:

March 22, 2011: Despite Radiation Fears, ‘I’m Not Leaving Tokyo’

March 28, 2011: After the Tsunami, ‘To Be Alive Is Enough’

April 1, 2011: Japan Tsunami Clean-up: So Much to Be Done

April 7, 2011: Japan: Pride, Honor and Respect in the Face of Chaos

May 9, 2011: Japan Crisis: Entering the Radiation Zone (Part 1)

Video credit: Ian Thomas Ash and Colin O’Neill