Fallout in Japan

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SP grad fears fallout in Japan

By Billy Davis

Former Batesville resident Tomoya Okamoto is safe but worried about nuclear fallout after earthquakes and tsunamis struck the main island of Japan on March 11.

His biggest worry is radiation leaking from unstable nuclear reactors on the island, according to an e-mail he sent March 12 to the Bill Davis family.

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Okamato, now 37, was a foreign exchange student in 1991 and 1992. He graduated from South Panola High in 1992.

He lived with the Sutton family, and later the Davis family, during his senior year.  

Okamato lives in Yokohama, Japan’s second-largest city, located south of Tokyo.

“Me and my mother are both alive but the situation is so serious,” he wrote. “I am not sleeping at all since then.”

John Davis sent Okamoto an e-mail last Friday, hours after the earthquake struck, asking if he was OK. Okamoto responded about 36 hours later, Saturday evening, the only e-mail he has sent so far.

The island nation is dotted with nuclear power plants, and the nuclear reactor at Fukushima is approximately 200 miles northeast of Yokohoma, according to Okamota.

“The dependable news station says 3 to 4 of them are out of control,” he wrote. “This is a Level 4 situation by the international grading standard.”

Okamota seemed knowledgeable about the nuclear reactors and their potential hazards, since in the e-mail he mentioned Cesium 137, a radioactive isotope, has been detected outside the facilities.

Regarding the tsunami, Okamoto reported that the entire town of Minami Sanriku disappeared:

“…we don’t know what happened to them because there are no people and no houses, simply even no police station existing, no town hall there anymore, seems just nothing to ask what happened to them now, no survivors…”

It was unclear if Okamoto had fled the city with his mother. He wrote that he had packed food and drinks, and “survival stuff.”

His most immediate fear, he wrote, was the darkness as he waited for dawn.

“I really want the sun up in the morning soon,” he wrote. “The darkness outside, in this condition, feels so unsafe.”

“We are praying for Tomoya. We’re worried about him. He is still part of our family,” said Bill Davis.

Davis fondly refers to Okamoto as his “number three son.”  

Okamota can be reached by e-mail at tomoya.okamoto@gmail.com.