Japan government losing public trust as nuclear crisis worsens

Wed Mar 16, 2011 6:26am GMT

By Linda Sieg

TOKYO (Reuters) - Public trust in the Japanese government faces its biggest test since World War Two over the handling of the nation's nuclear crisis, raising concerns that a breakdown in confidence could fuel panic and chaos if appeals for calm go unheeded.

Foreigners are leaving Tokyo, or shutting themselves indoors, and supermarket shelves are running empty despite authorities assuring citizens there is no need to panic from the crisis unfolding at a quake-stricken nuclear power plant.

The government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan was already unpopular before the disasters.

"This government is useless," Masako Kitajima, a Tokyo office worker in her 50s, said as radiation levels ticked up in the city of around 12 million people, more than 200 km south of the nuclear plant where officials battled to avert disaster.

Tokyo resident Masashi Yoshida, 53, agreed.

When asked for his assessment of the government's performance, he replied: "It's been awful."

"They've been giving information far too late. They should have consulted with other countries and experts. They tried too hard to do it all themselves. I think they panicked themselves, and couldn't think straight. Japan would be better off if we went without politicians for 10 years."

Even the local mayor of a town close to the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex complained that the government had failed to keep his office updated on the situation.   Continued...

<p>People shop for food from almost empty shelves at a big-box supermarket in Tokyo March 16, 2011. REUTERS/Issei Kato</p>
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