Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

France refuses to return cultural artifacts to Benin

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Fillon Insists the President is Leading a 'Secret Cell' to Tarnish Him

Read more

ACROSS AFRICA

Mass graves bear witness to growing violence in DR Congo

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen meets French troops in Chad

Read more

THE DEBATE

Westminster attack: What response to parliament rampage? (part 2)

Read more

THE DEBATE

Westminster attack: What response to parliament rampage? (part 1)

Read more

FOCUS

A day in the life of an Indian entrepreneur

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

US department store Sears faces possible closure

Read more

REPORTERS

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 9.10 pm Paris time. And you can watch it online as early as Friday.

Latest update : 2011-04-25

Japan: at the heart of the 'red zone'

The exclusion zone around the Fukushima nuclear power station has an end-of-the-world feeling about it. The villages are now desolate ghost towns. Our reporters went into the heart of this post-apocalyptic danger zone.

It took a while before we dared venture into the “red zone”, the 20 km area surrounding the Fukushima nuclear plant. It’s the most famous and terrifying no-go area since Chernobyl. We very gradually approached the “gates of hell”. 

Our first stop was Koriyama, a town located 60 km from the plant, followed by a rural village 45 km away, and then the 30 km zone. We thought that if people lived here 24/7, we could easily spend three days with them. “When you see a snake, there is no point running away, you just need to take a step back,” a café owner in the containment zone advised us. Before setting off, we made sure we had a dosimeter to measure the radioactivity, as well as masks and protective clothing. As this other type of snake is particularly elusive and treacherous.
 
Our journey inside the wider 30km containment zone first took us to Minamisoma. A farming couple offered us coffee which we drank gingerly – wondering all the while where the water came from and if it was contaminated. The city centre was deserted, but the residents who had decided to stay appeared to be living their lives normally, talking and laughing as always. The Japanese seem to have an enormous capacity for calm.
 
We hadn’t planned to go deep into the red zone. It was Koji, an off-licence owner turned volunteer civil defence organiser who suggested the idea. We accompanied him as he made his rounds. At first he asked us to wear our masks at all times and to stay inside the car. We managed to persuade him to loosen the rules, but sitting in the back seat, I kept a close eye on the radiation monitor.
 
The entrance to the red zone wasn’t monitored. Within the perimeter, the towns were empty. We came across a city that appeared frozen in time, like a modern day Pompeii. The door of the laundrette was wide open; we could have washed our clothes if we had wanted. Piped music could still be heard playing over the intercom of a bank. But there were no clients to hear it. There wasn’t a soul in sight. And these conditions could last for months or even years. 

By Marie LINTON , Guillaume BRESSION

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2017-03-16 Americas

Canada’s indigenous people determined to improve their lives

Although Canada regularly tops international rankings for its quality of life, the daily existence of the country’s indigenous people, also known as "First Nations", has more in...

Read more

2017-03-09 Middle East

Iraq's lost children: Victims of post-traumatic stress

In Iraq, thousands of civilians are fleeing the battle of Mosul against the Islamic State group jihadists. Many of the displaced have reached IDP camps in the north of the...

Read more

2017-03-03 Africa

Libya: Six years on, what remains of the revolution in key city of Zintan?

Six years have passed since the outbreak of the revolution that led to the ouster and killing of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi. With the country divided between rival clans,...

Read more

2014-03-14 Bashar al-Assad

Syria’s chemical attacks: the inside story

A chemical weapons attack targeted the suburbs of Damascus in August 2013. The West threatened air strikes in response, and Syria agreed to destroy its chemical arms stockpile....

Read more

2017-02-24 Middle East

Video: India’s Kuki people, possible descendants of one of Israel's lost tribes

In northeastern India, a small ethnic group claims to be one of the lost tribes of Israel. The fervour of the Kuki people has persuaded the Chief Rabbi of Israel to approve their...

Read more