Japan's quake

Interview: Witness at Fukushima Daiichi

Alex Chadwick Mar 6, 2012

When the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan and the Daiichi nuclear plant last March, an American technical crew with 40 workers was on site.

Among the crew was Carl Pillitteri, a maintenance supervisor who was on the floor of one of the four turbine buildings — enormous structures that house the gigantic turbines that produce energy. Carl was in charge of a detail that was packing away the specialized tools and equipment the technicians use to service the plant.  Over the next half-hour, he and they endured a terrifying ordeal — sometimes in total darkness when the lighting failed.

The full force of the quake lasted several minutes. Several aftershocks followed, but the lights returned, and Carl was able to get everyone out, after first rescuing a crane operator who was stranded 30 feet overhead. Separated from the others, Carl retreated to a nearby hillside within the Daiichi plant complex, where he watched the tsunami approach to within a hundred feet or so from where he stood.

In an exclusive interview for “Burn: An Energy Journal,” Carl said he remains traumatized by the events to this day and has spent the last year trying to move past it. Watch a video clip above from the interview and tune in to Marketplace on Wednesday, March 7 for the complete story. Read the transcript of the interview by clicking on the transcript tab near the top of this page.

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