‘Fukushima Fifty’ have been isolated from their families to prevent news of difficult conditions leaking out

Japan nuclear crisis: ‘Fukushima Fifty’ cut off from family

The nuclear power plant workers known as the ‘Fukushima Fifty’ have been isolated from their families to prevent news of difficult conditions leaking out, it was claimed.

Japanese special firefighters at Fukushima 1 nuclear plant

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Japanese special firefighters prepare to depart in special water cannon trucks to cool off the Fukushima 1 nuclear plant Photo: EPA

A family friend of one of the workers – the team battling to control the crisis at the power plant – said that email and phone access had been cut and one man had been unable to speak to his wife for days.

The move comes after one of the Fifty texted his wife in Japan saying that drinking water at the plant was running low, adding: “I feel like I’m coming down with something.”

Fukushima workers interviewed by The Sunday Telegraph at a special evacuation centre in the city of Koriyama said they had lost confidence in the management of the plant.

“We were told that safety was a top priority,” said one staff member, who asked to remain anonymous. “We went through simulations of what to do in an emergency, but we never thought it would be as bad as this. I don’t want to go back there.”

The majority of the plant’s 1,800 workforce was evacuated last week after a series of explosions vented radioactivity harmful to human health into the atmosphere. But a skeleton team of around 50 workers at any one time – about 180 in total, with shifts and rotations – is fighting a desperate rearguard action to stop catastrophic reactor meltdowns.

A next-door neighbour of one of the Fifty, from Tomiokamachi, said: “His wife told me that since the first day, when the reactor blew up, she has not had contact with her husband because inside the power plant they shut out phone reception.

“She says now that no news is good news, and she has to believe that her husband is alive and working inside. She just hopes he has not been injured or damaged for life.”

Tepco, the operator of the Fukushima plant, is keeping a close eye on the Koriyama evacuation centre, about 25 miles west of the stricken station and on the fringes of the Japanese government’s radiation exclusion zone.

Though the centre is open to all evacuees from the radiation-affected area, a very high proportion of those sleeping there are connected with Tepco and the power station. A Tepco official attempted to discourage The Sunday Telegraph from conducting interviews at the centre on Saturday.

It is understood that some of the Fifty themselves have been sleeping at the centre, but they appeared to have been moved out.

It has also been reported that some of the workers have a hard time swallowing the stored biscuits and packs of cooked rice with which they are being fed.

Japanese television quoted the daughter of a Fukushima worker as saying: “My father is still working at the plant – they are running out of food. We think conditions are really tough. He says he’s accepted his fate. Much like a death sentence.”

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