Lack of information frustrates Japanese public

TOKYO - The Japanese are losing faith in what the government is telling them - and they don't trust the power company very much either. On Wednesday, the governor of Fukushima said, "The anger and anxiety .. have reached a boiling point."

CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports the fallout from Japan's worst nuclear accident is growing panic and suspicion that the government and TEPCO - the Tokyo Electric Power Company - are not telling the whole truth. They established a 20-mile danger zone, but  fear in Japan has spread much farther.

"I think the government is trying to hide something," Tokyo resident Chitoyo Toki said. Hidehiro Koyamachi added, "the Prime Minister and TEPCO say we are fine. But things keep happening that say we aren't fine."

Tokyo airports are crowded with the growing number of people taking flight. Jim Stevens, an American who was headed home to Iowa said, "We aren't aware of any communications from the Japanese government."

Complete Coverage: Disaster in Japan

TEPCO was established in 1951, just six years after the nuclear blasts that ended World War II. It's the 4th largest electric company in the world. It operates 17 nuclear reactors and often finds itself in hot water.

In 2002 top executives resigned in disgrace when TEPCO was found to have falsified reports and concealed accidents at nuclear plants 200 times over 25 years. Industry watchdogs say it's wise to be skeptical.

Hideyuki Ban of Citizen's Nuclear Information. said "TEPCO did not tell the truth in the past, and they're not telling the truth now."

Even Prime Minister Kan seems to doubt he's getting the whole story. Publically, on Tuesday he urged citizens to stay calm. Privately, he exploded, "What the hell is going on?" at TEPCO executives, who waited an hour to tell him of the first explosion.

Nuclear experts say this crisis is dangerous, unreliable information makes it worse. Bluce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation said the Japanese public, "is uncertain about the accuracy of the information and that is inhibiting and effective crisis response."

Events at Fukushima are unfolding so fast, TEPCO and the government may not know what's happening. Today people were alarmed when the government said radiation at the plant was so high, all workers were being evacuated. When levels dropped and workers returned, no one offered an explanation.

"Even we don't have the latest information," said nuclear engineer Kazuhiko Kudo. "It's not because TEPCO is hiding it - they don't have it."

The people of Japan want answers in this crisis. The lack of information is leaving them in the dark.

  • Bill Whitaker

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