Radiation panic spreads to Asian nations
Asian nations yesterday vowed to crack down on hoax messages warning about radiation spreading beyond Japan, which have helped stoke growing unease over the unfolding nuclear crisis.
Shoppers in the region scrambled to hoard supplies of favourite Japanese food products, fearing contamination of future stocks, after radiation was unleashed from a stricken nuclear plant in quake-hit Japan.
The hoax text messages and emails, warning people to shelter from dangerous radioactive material, were reported to have spread as far afield as India.
Thought to have originated in the Philippines and purporting to be a BBC newsflash, the messages urge people to stay inside and swab their thyroid glands with iodine solution to guard against radiation sickness.
Japan's atomic emergency has sparked panic buying of iodine pills, even though experts warned they are of limited use. Iodine solution, commonly used as an antiseptic, is completely ineffective.
In Hong Kong, nervous parents queued for powdered milk formula across the city, anxious to stockpile the popular product as fears grew that future shipments could contain radioactive traces.
Fires and explosions at the Fukushima plant have unleashed dangerous amounts of radiation at the plant, and higher than normal levels in Tokyo, but authorities say there is no threat to human health in the capital.
But despite widespread expert assurances that there is currently no risk outside Japan, the radiation threat was also troubling restaurateurs around the region.
"We're very worried," said William Mark, president of the Federation of Hong Kong Restaurant Owners, who feared an impact on Japanese outlets in a territory which is already skittish after a series of health emergencies in recent years.
South Korean authorities urged calm after bogus alerts swept the country's social media networks and vowed to track down and punish those reponsible under social unrest laws allowing a maximum one-year prison sentence.