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5 live's Shelagh Fogarty in Japan

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Shelagh Fogarty | 06:00 UK time, Friday, 18 March 2011

Lights are turned off to save energy before rolling blackouts in Tokyo

Lights are turned off to save energy before rolling blackouts in Tokyo

Just one more report before you head home, Shelagh, they said hopefully. A blog for the website? No problem, I say, thinking it'll be a useful round up of the past five days. I settle down in bed to write it on my phone and what do you know - the room starts shaking noticibly and it doesn't stop as quickly as it has in all the previous aftershocks I've felt since coming to Japan.

I look out of the large window on the swaying 37th floor of the hotel and think 'get to the lobby'. The others on my landing do the same. There, a tannoy which tells us that we hadn't got it wrong: "There has been a strong earthquake, please stay calm."

We do. But not nearly as calm as the hotel's Japanese guests though, most of whom carry on as if nothing is happening. Magnitude 6. What does it take to unnerve them I wonder, but I know the answer already. It takes five days in which many thousands of their population have died, millions have been displaced, and a nuclear power plant leaking radiation which the government here says is a threat to human health.

Tokyo's streets emptied within hours of that admission. Home, even without electricity, is the best place to be it seems. Earlier today the city known for its teeming streets was like a ghost town. A handful of cars on an eight lane highway at rush hour. Pedestrians you could count on both hands. That announcement over radiation levels meant nerves over-ruled the facts. Nuclear trumps neurones.

Right or wrong, after an event which illustrated human powerlessness, the citizens of Tokyo took control where they could and chose home.

Tragically, home for thousands in the North East of Japan now is a school hall or a civic rescue centre. People with nothing left but themselves must make do with the help they are given but however welcome it is, for the rest of us their loss is unimaginable - like a never ending cold wind. I feel for them as I head back to the UK.

Shelagh Fogarty presents 5 live Breakfast with Nicky Campbell


  • Comment number 1.

    Well it was extraordinary to be there to see what was happening in Tokyo and to experience the national shock and the real ones too, but I still can't see what the point was of sending Shelagh there for ?four days when there are simply loads of BBC staff on the ground. Damian Grammaticus, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and Roland Buerk all live in the region, speak the language and know so much. She didn't add to anything we have learnt from them.

    Perhaps next week Nicky is going to Benghazi?

  • Comment number 2.

    Spot on Carrie - but that's the way the BBC likes to spend our money .....

  • Comment number 3.

    When she got on the plane to a nice 5day jaunt to a nice hotel half way around the world, did she feel not just the slightest tinge of guilt? Probably not, and well, what does it matter? Its only money, and there are splodges of it at the BBC.

    We have enough brave reporters trawling through the ruins of Japan, or dodging bullets in Libya, to bring us first hand news. We don't need some second-rate presenter (Well, she's no Paxman or Nauchtie) going out on what in reality was a jolly. Stick to the studio, and try to spend more time reading the news with a bit more attention to punctuation.

  • Comment number 4.

    I don;t agree with everything Gruaniad said above, but if you ask did having Shelegh in Tokyo add exponentially more value to the breakfast programme then using one of the existing BBC reporters or a freelancer I think the answer would be no.

    Then, if you overlay the financial imperative -- that the BBC should be trying to save our money not waste it in these challenging financial times -- there is no case to have Shelegh in Tokyo. It is a waste of money.

    The BBC needs to make much better use of its talent, with television reporters filing for radio too.

    And having Vasos Alexander flying around the world to the world's best sporting events -- like the Australian Open -- to read the UK newspaper headlines out is a waste of our money too.



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