As the world watches the precarious developments at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant, the small band of Tokyo Electric Power Company workers frantically trying to contain the radiation leakage have been hailed as heroes. Today the New York Post wrote, "They're known as the 'Fukushima 50,' and they're Japan's only hope of avoiding a Chernobyl-like disaster." But there has been so far very little heard from the workers themselves.
Singapore's the Straits Times found and translated the now-removed blog of a female worker, Michiko Otsuki, who's been writing about the unfolding events, which CNN briefly noted. She wrote that she was stationed at the plant until Monday. Yesterday, the TEPCO workers stationed at the plant numbered only 50 (the force has since been doubled to 100, with military and fire trucks bolstering the crew) from about 1,400 originally stationed at the plant. Here are a few of the striking sections from Otsuki's posts (the full version is here):
- 'As a worker at Tepco and a member of the Fukushima No. 2 reactor team, I was dealing with the crisis at the scene until yesterday (Monday).'
- 'In the midst of the tsunami alarm (last Friday), at 3am in the night when we couldn't even see where we going, we carried on working to restore the reactors from where we were, right by the sea, with the realisation that this could be certain death,' she said.
- 'People have been flaming Tepco,' she said. 'But the staff of Tepco have refused to flee, and continue to work even at the peril of their own lives. Please stop attacking us.'
- 'The machine that cools the reactor is just by the ocean, and it was wrecked by the tsunami. Everyone worked desperately to try and restore it. Fighting fatigue and empty stomachs, we dragged ourselves back to work. 'There are many who haven't gotten in touch with their family members, but are facing the present situation and working hard.'
The Straits Times wrote that its reporters "tracked and translated her blog to find out her full story when she first posted on popular Japanese social networking site Mixi." As of Thursday, they reported, "The original post has now been taken down and she has instead posted an apology: 'I am very sorry, but I have locked the post as it was being used in a way I had not intended it to be.'"
It's unclear if Michiko Otsuki wanted her posts to be as widely disseminated as they've become. As with much of the scattered news from Fukushima, there's been a torrent of important information arriving that hasn't yet been put into proper context. As we learn more we'll update accordingly.