14 Mar 2011

Japan: queues in the face of devastation

Chief Correspondent

No supplies, no petrol, no food – but no panic. The Japanese deal with their tsunami tragedy with silence and dignity, writes Alex Thomson.

I get the strong sense that the Japanese don’t do panic. Instead they queue. Across town in Sendai people stoically wait outside foodshops. Empty shelves are a fact of life here.

We negotiated a permit to use the shut motorway network, partially damaged by the quakes.

That’s why supplies are not getting through. But also there’s no power on the quake zone so petrol pumps either don’t work at all – or you have to hand crank the bowser.

Right now, we’ve driven an hour south to get our 30-litre ration. Then we head north on the empty east coast motorway.

We will pass no other traffic beyond convoys of fire tenders, cranes, earthmovers and so forth all heading north to the quake zone.

Our translator’s on the phone to friends down in Tokyo who report petrol rationing even there.

All morning alarming news from just to the south where another explosion’s happened at the Fukushima number 3 reactor.