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Japan raises nuclear crisis rating

People queue up in the snow to buy food and daily necessities outside a supermarket in Sendai.

Japan raises nuclear crisis rating

The crisis rating at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility has been raised from level 4 to level 5 on an international scale of 7 as emergency work crews continue to regain control of the reactors. In Sendai, just miles from Daiichi, citizens struggle to return to normal life.

JEREMY HOBSON: To the nuclear disaster in Japan now. The country's nuclear safety agency this morning raised the level of the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi from a 4 to a 5 on an international scale of 7.

Marketplace's Asia Bureau Chief Rob Schmitz joins us now from Tokyo as we continue our coverage of the human and economic disaster in Japan. Hi Rob.

ROB SCHMITZ: Hey Jeremy.

HOBSON: Do epople trust what the government is telling htem about the safety of this nuclear plant and the risk to the citizens of Japan?

SCHMITZ: Well, I was in Sendai yesterday, and that's just north of the damaged reactors. Nobody I spoke ot about this said they trusted the government's assessment of the situation at Fukushima. Part of the reason is that both the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. which runs this plant have a history of withholding information from the public about problems at nuclear power plants. In Sendai, I met a business owner who told me what she thought.

BUSINESS OWNER: I think they're hiding information about the levels of radiation. The smoke from the explosion went so high, and we've all heard that if it snows or rains, we could be impacted. So I think it's a little more serious than what they are saying.

And I should mention that it was snowing pretty heavily on us while she said this.

HOBSON: Rob, you've been traveling all across the country. How back to normal are things at this point?

SCHMITZ: Well, in Sendai, things are far from normal. I spent the day talking to local businesses and they all needed the same thing. They needed gas. Like any developed economy, Japan runs on gas. Most importantly trucks need it to carry supplies and food and the region's gas stations are dry. In Sendai yesterday, cars were lined up outside gas stations for hours waiting for the next tanker to get there. Now Sendai has a port, so you'd think they could ship gas there. But the government has closed off the port because it needs it to move relief items like essential food, water, baby formula and emergency crews helping to rebuild this region. But we're not sure when the port will open for non-relief supplies yet.

HOBSON: Marketplace's Rob Schmitz in Tokyo. Rob, thanks for all your great reporting from Japan.

SCHMITZ: Thanks Jeremy.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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