Nuclear plant turns savior for Japan tsunami refugees

Nuclear plant turns savior for Japan tsunami refugees

Hundreds of disaster-displaced people make their home in a functioning nuclear power station
A wrecked train carriage rests over a cemetery in Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture.
A wrecked train carriage rests over a cemetery in Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture.

Amid the horrific stories of death and destruction surrounding the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region, there’s still room for the occasional wry smile, such as the one surely engendered by the news of 240 refugees taking shelter in, of all places, a nuclear power plant.

The group of men, women and children from Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture has been holed up in the plant since the tsunami hit, seemingly killing over 1,000 of the town’s 10,000 population.

The irony of the nature of their refuge clearly isn’t lost on the temporary residents, as the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi power plant 120 kilometers away plays out daily on their televisions.

The electricity to power the sets, incidentally, comes direct from the regional power grid to which the Onagawa plant is attached. The facility is run by Tohoku Electric Power, a separate entity from Tokyo Electric Power, or TEPCO, the operator in charge of Fukushima.

As the group shelters in the employee gym, right next door to the reactors, the good fortune of the survivors is clear.

One man, sheltering with his family said: “It's pretty spread out. People are just kind of lying around and relaxing. There are a lot of aftershocks, but it's safe.”

Meanwhile, an older woman settled on a more prosaic object of gratitude: “It's very clean inside. We have electricity and nice toilets.”