Tokyo was rocked by a massive tremor on Tuesday, compounding the fears of residents already gripped by concerns that nuclear radiation from a damaged power plant could reach the city.
According to the Japan Meteorological Society, the quake struck the Shizuoka-ken Tobu region southwest of Tokyo at approximately 10:30 p.m. local time. It rumbled from a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometres, with a magnitude of 6.0.
Freelance journalist Chris Johnson had been in Tokyo, but headed for the Shizuoka region on Tuesday amidst fears radiation from a damaged nuclear plant in the country's northeast was headed for the capital.
"People have been fleeing to this area thinking that they would get away from that active fault line, get away from the earthquakes and get away from the radiation possibilities," Johnson told CTV in a telephone interview from his hotel room in Shizuoka prefecture, less than 100 kilometres southwest of Tokyo.
"So right now we're thinking: 'Where can we go in Japan?'," he added, describing the doubts among those who joined the exodus from Tokyo earlier in the day.
"A lot of people left the city, including myself," Johnson said, explaining that many assumed the area around Japan's iconic Mount Fuji was safe.
Tokyo residents had been told Tuesday that the danger posed by radiation leaking from the Dai-ichi nuclear plant in the Fukushima prefecture some 240 kilometres northeast of the city was minimal.
But that didn't stop many from fleeing the densely populated metropolis, and did little to calm the panic among those who chose to stay.
Many stores have run out of radios, flashlights, candles, fuel cans, sleeping bags and other survival gear. Shops have also been cleared staple foods.
"People are getting angry when they go to stores now and can't see very basic things like bread or rice and that's in Tokyo," Johnson said, describing the panic buying he witnessed amongst people rushing to stock up on basic necessities.
See earlier post regarding the nuclear aspect of this disaster, as I had blogged previously on the possibility of this-
Responding to Japan's struggle to contain a possible nuclear catastrophe, the French nuclear safety authority has upgraded the severity of the ongoing accident to level six out of seven on the international scale.
Level seven on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale has been invoked only once, following the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine.
The head of France's Nuclear Safety Authority, Andre-Claude Lacoste told reporters on Tuesday that the situation in Japan is less severe than the core explosion at Chernobyl, but worse than the 1979 partial core meltdown at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania."We are now in a situation that is different from yesterday'