Tokyo Becoming a Ghost Town: Report

Reuters has a stunning report on how the nuclear crisis has transformed Tokyo, a thriving Metropolis and one of the world’s biggest and densely populated cities, into a ghost town.

Areas of Tokyo usually packed with office workers crammed into sushi restaurants and noodle shops were eerily quiet. Many schools were closed. Companies allowed workers to stay home. Long queues formed at airports.

As Japanese authorities struggled to avert disaster at an earthquake-battered nuclear complex 240 km (150 miles) to the north, parts of Tokyo resembled a ghost town.

Many stocked up on food and stayed indoors or simply left, transforming [Tokyo] into a shell of its usual self.

“Look, it’s like Sunday — no cars in town,” said Kazushi Arisawa, a 62-year-old taxi driver as he waited for more than an hour outside an office tower where he usually finds customers within minutes. “I can’t make money today.”

Radiation in Tokyo has been negligible, briefly touching three times the normal rate Tuesday, smaller than a dental x-ray. Wednesday, winds over the Fukushima nuclear-power plant gusted out to sea, keeping levels close to normal.

But that does little to allay public anxiety about an ailing 40-year-old nuclear complex with three reactors in partial meltdown and a fourth with spent atomic fuel exposed to the atmosphere after last Friday’s earthquake and tsunami.

Thousands of people have inundated private jet companies with requests for evacuation flights, sending prices surging.

“I got a request yesterday to fly 14 people from Tokyo to Hong Kong … they did not care about price,” said Jackie Wu, chief operations officer at Hong Kong Jet, a newly established private jet subsidiary of China’s HNA Group.

Mike Walsh, chief of Asia Jet, said they had run three evacuation flights to Hong Kong from Tokyo by early Wednesday.

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