Bars empty in lonely city near Japan nuclear accident

Thu Mar 31, 2011 10:12am EDT
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By David Dolan

FUKUSHIMA CITY, Japan (Reuters) - Daylight is fading in Fukushima, and Futoshi Sato is resigned to another cold and tiresome night seeking customers in a city where nobody wants to go drinking any more.

The 26-year-old stands on a shop-lined road trying to hand out flyers for his nearby bar. But few people in this northeastern Japanese city, just 70 kilometers (44 miles) from the crippled Daiichi nuclear plant, want to linger in town.

Trains are still not running from the local station after the earthquake and tsunami that savaged north Japan this month, forcing commuters into long queues for buses to make it home at night. Then there are the fuel shortages and fears of radiation.

"It's very lonely. During the day, it's still crowded, but at night no one is walking around," Sato said. "Fukushima was a city where people would go out drinking, but not now."

In the world's worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986, the nuclear plant continues to leak radiation three weeks after it was battered by the magnitude 9.0 quake and ensuing tsunami.

The government and plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, have conceded there is no end in sight to the crisis.

While the people of Fukushima soldier on, bar owners and restaurant employees wonder how much of a future they have.

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