Have you seen this Fukushima child?
By Kim Kyung-Hoon
Near midnight on March 12th, 2011, I was looking for Fukushima evacuees who had fled from towns near the nuclear power plant hit by a massive tsunami and earthquake the day before, and was now leaking radiation.
On hearing the warnings of meltdown and radiation leaks at the nuclear plant, my colleagues and I drove west from Fukushima airport where we landed by helicopter with two very simple goals: stay as far away as possible from the nuclear power plant, and find the evacuees.
However, there was no clear information where to find the evacuees and how far away we had to stay from the nuclear plant to ensure our safety in the panicky and chaotic situation.
After asking around for several hours in Koriyama city in Fukushima Prefecture, we found out that all the evacuees were getting radiation checks before they could be admitted to evacuation centers. When we got to the makeshift inspection station, which was set up at Koriyama Sports Complex, what we encountered was more like a scene from a sci-fi movie. Officials in protective suits from head to toe were scanning the refugees to check whether they were radioactive.
The evacuees were standing in a long line waiting for the radiation test. What I saw in their eyes was terror and anger at their government’s inefficiencies. Several people who had been tested for radioactivity had been separated from the group and they were sitting on the ground with despairing and puzzled looks as they waited for decontamination.
In the long line of evacuees, I spotted a little girl brought by her mother.
When her turn came, the child raised her two hands toward the scanning machine as if she was being threatened and I sensed that it would be my key picture that night as I pressed the shutter.
This picture was taken in Koriyama Sports Complex around midnight on March 12th, 2011. I would be very grateful if anyone reading this article could give me any information about her. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
In a rush to file the picture, I left the scene in a hurry without asking for her personal information such as name, age and where she came from. Asking questions at such a time of confusion would not have resulted in answers from the stunned evacuees; they didn’t even seem to be able to talk. My adrenaline was up, pushing me to send the picture as quickly as possible. Otherwise I would have surely gotten more information from her.
It was a really brief encounter with this Fukushima child but this picture got a lot of attention from all over the world, because it was the first image of evacuees in this nuclear disaster. It was subsequently posted in many newspapers and magazines across the world, and it appeared on anti-nuclear protest banners in Tokyo as an icon of the tragedy in Fukushima.
Now almost a year has passed and I have been seeking the child since last year. The only clue I have is my TV colleague’s video piece. In his video piece, another evacuee who had been in the line for radiation tests said he had come from a town called Okumamachi. With this clue, I sent print-outs to Okumamachi evacuees to find the girl but I have not received any clues yet on how to locate her.
Recently I was informed by government officials that many evacuee groups from different towns had been mixed that night so she might not have come from Okumamachi.
Therefore, I have been asking other evacuees from nearby towns to help find the girl, but it seems as if there will be a very slim chance of finding her because the communities were all torn apart.
Where is she now?
Almost a year has passed, but the image of the girl still causes me vivid flashbacks as this she reminds me so much of my own daughter. As a father, I am really sorry that she was thrown into such unexpected and invisible danger.
If I can see her again, I would like to hold her small hands and encourage her. I want to tell her that many people have seen her picture and are hoping she is okay.
I would be very grateful if anyone reading this article could give me any information about her. I can be reached by email at email@example.com.
Below are other pictures of her and her mother.