Social Share

People flee Sakhalin amid Japan radiation fears


After the first reports at the Fukushima nuclear power plant were released, emergency officials for the Sakhalin region have intensified checks for the Sakhalin region, Russia’s closest part to Japan. We talked to representatives of the ministry some time ago, they showed us a car which they equipped with the professional Geiger meters which would measure the radiation levels at different places around the city. The car would be raiding the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. So the emergencies ministry here assures that as there was no increase in the radiation level on Tuesday and there was no cause for the residents to panic.

Meanwhile we know that the Russia’s Defense Ministry says it is ready to evacuate its personnel from the Kuril Islands, which is the closest part of the region to Japan. And the residents are searching for their personal Geiger counters to measure radiation levels. We also know from the pharmacies that sales of iodine have rocketed. People obviously want to make sure they are well-prepared for a possible threat of radioactive emission in case there is a nuclear catastrophe in Japan. From what we know from the people we have spoken to is that they believe the emergency ministries are rushing their reports about the normal radiation levels and they are not quite sure that whether the Japanese are playing down the threat of nuclear catastrophe or not.

VOX POP foreign national, speaking English: In a sense that they are playing it down … if they are able to pick up a radioactive activity 160 kilometers away …what is the actual activity going on the island itself if it can be detected that far away? It gives me a great concern about what is going on the island itself and what is happening to the people. And whether the Japanese people are aware of the hazard? The Japanese government could be playing this down so they do not cause alarm.

Planes leave the international airport of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk according to the schedule and from what we know there are no additional flights arranged. Also the air companies say that there is no extra demand. But from what we see now – a plane to Moscow is about to leave - is that there are so many passengers with small children. Let’s ask them why they have decided to leave now.

VOX POP local resident, speaking Russian: “I am staying but my wife and my child are leaving to Moscow. It was a planned flight but now that there's a nuclear threat I would have sent them away anyway.”

VOX POP local resident, speaking Russian: “Of course we are always afraid. Living here in Sakhalin we are always on high alert. We have our emergency luggage always packed and some extra cash lying around at home just in case.”

Everyone here understands that in the worst case scenario it will take a radioactive cloud less than an hour to reach the coast of Russia.

Ekaterina Gracheva, RT, from the Sakhalin region.


46° 57' 40.5432" N, 142° 43' 55.128" E