Tokyo residents face radiation in dust, water stoically

Tokyo residents face radiation in dust, water stoically

Most people in the city of 13 million stayed indoors on a sunny, if slightly hazy, spring day and the middle of a three-day weekend. But shoppers queued as usual for food and vegetables, despite the radiation scare from a nuclear plant in the northeast crippled by a massive earthquake and tsunami nine days ago.

“There’s no way I can check if those radioactive particles are in my tap water or the food I eat, so there isn’t much I can really do about it,” said Setsuko Kuroi, an 87-year-old woman shopping in a downtown Tokyo supermarket with a white gauze mask over her face.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said traces of radioactive iodine were found in dust in Tokyo and the surounding Kanto area in a 24-hour period starting Friday morning. It added there was no risk to human health.

Officials in Ibaraki and Fukushima prefectures, the areas closest to the nuclear plant, said some samples of spinach and milk had been found to have higher than usual levels of iodine. They were analysing samples and asking for a voluntary suspension of shipments. Government officials said the levels were not immediately harmful to human health.

More than a week after the earthquake and tsunami triggered the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, 240 km from Tokyo, many foreigners and tourists have fled the country and rolling blackouts and radiation fears have gripped the capital.