Alumna living in Japan says food, gasoline in short supply

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    More than a week has passed since the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, but TCU alumna Jessica Fleming, who lives in Japan, said there was still inadequate access to food and gasoline.

    Fleming, who lives in Shiogama, a city about 10 miles east of the city of Sendai, which was 80 miles from the quake’s epicenter, said that compared to the citizens who were homeless and those who were located within the 50-mile radius around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, she and her fiancé’s family were doing “A-OK.”

    The government advised the people in the 50-mile radius around the nuclear plant to wear masks outside, to stay indoors and to hose down after being outside of their houses, she said.

    Doug Ingram, a physics and astronomy professor, said those precautions were the best that could be given besides getting out of the city. He said the masks and protective clothing acted as a filter, keeping out the radioactive materials that attached to small particles carried by the wind.

    “If you breathe in that pollen or that dust that has radioactive particles on it, that’s when it’s going to hurt you,” Ingram said.

    However, Fleming said the risks of radioactive exposure were not relevant to citizens of Shiogama. Because precautionary measures only applied to that 50-mile radius, Fleming said she was frustrated with foreign companies wanting to ship packages through Tokyo or avoiding delivery to Shiogama.

    “Shipping companies back in Texas won’t deliver boxes of food and supplies from my friends and family because I am in a “radioactive area,'” she said.

    Ingram said he believed companies did not want to be liable for possible employee illness due to radiation exposure by travelling to Japan.

    Fleming said public transportation has been a problem as well. The train she took to work in Sendai was no longer running.

    Yumiko Keitges, a professor of modern language studies, said Tokyo experienced similar problems with its transportation despite being away from the destruction zone. Most of the destruction from the natural disaster affected the northeast part of Japan, yet some trains in Tokyo were not running because of energy conservation measures by the city, she said.

    Due to the lack of transportation and shipments of food to Shiogama, Fleming said she and the six others living with her will have to live off a stockpile of food. But she said she believed she and her family are not the main people who need to receive aid.

    “The people who need aid are homeless, starving, terrified and/or injured,” she said.

    John Singleton, director of International Student Services, said various fundraisers on campus to help with the relief efforts in Japan will begin March 30.

    Follow the Daily Skiff for continuing coverage of the natural disaster in Japan and its effects.