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Japanese Flee Area Near Nuclear Power Plant

After another explosion and fire was reported at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japan's prime minister announced in a televised address that those living within about a 20-mile radius of the nuclear complex should stay inside their homes.

But many people did the exact opposite. Some packed their cars, others got into buses — and residents simply headed west.

At Curry House, just off a main road in Koriyama, most of the items on the menu had been crossed off with a blue marker — showing what you couldn't get. Only two dishes were available because of food shortages.

Reiko, who didn't want to give her last name, sat with her family, about to eat. She said they had just arrived from Iwaki, near the coast and not far from the troubled nuclear plant. She said she didn't know if she had been contaminated by radioactive materials, but she will soon find out when she gets checked.

When the nuclear plants were built, she says, they were told that even if an earthquake occurred, there would be little or no damage. Now the "worst situation" has happened, she says.

On Flights Out, 'No Seats'

At the airport, university student Toshihide Hosomi arrived from Sendai, one of the hardest-hit areas. He said he barely escaped the tsunami.

"I saw people ... just scared," he said. "Most people escaped from the tsunami."

Most people who were close to him escaped. But it is estimated that some 10,000 people were killed.

People have been arriving at the airport since the weekend. Many have been sleeping there for several nights, trying to get flights out. Now, it's even more packed.

Tomoyuki Hanida, with All Nippon Airways, said everyone is trying to fly away from the disaster zones. But the flights are all full, sold out.

"No seats," he said. "Stay here tonight — they will sleep."

Four English teachers — two from the U.S., one from Australia and one from Ireland — have another plan. They won't be getting on planes anytime soon, but perhaps a bus can take them farther south — closer to trains, then possibly to Tokyo for international flights out of Japan.

But for Takeshi Munakata, Koriyama is home. He's not leaving.

"I love Fukushima. I love Japan," he says. "No problem. ... I believe in Japan, Japan technology. I die, OK, no problem."

It seems fatalistic, but he says that's the Japanese way.

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Doualy Xaykaothao is a newscaster and reporter for NPR, based in Culver City. She returned to NPR for this role in 2018, and is responsible for writing, producing, and delivering national newscasts. She also reports on breaking news stories for NPR.