At a mom-and-pop dumpling restaurant in Shanghai’s French Concession yesterday evening, all reactions to the destruction wrought across north-eastern Japan could be quickly compressed into a single unified response: “horrifying.” However, this general feeling of dismay was breed of its own motives. “All of the supermarkets close to here have sold out of sea salt,” said Xu Ming, a 21-year-old girl with steam-bitten hands from Anhui. Surely enough, a quick check in the local supermarkets confirmed that there had indeed been a run on salt. “Many are afraid the nuclear power plant that exploded in Japan will send radiation here,” she added.
Reports have been abounding that the citizenry of Beijing and Shanghai have rushed to supermarkets with the hope of collecting enough iodine from salt to protect them from radiation. Frantic mobs of people have since stripped shelves bare, but according to CNN, this panic is ill-advised. “It would take 80 tablespoons of salt to make up one prophylactic, or preventative, iodide tablet,” the report read.
Paranoia seems to have griped the northern capital, yet, in Shanghai, reactions from the panic-stricken populace have been founded elsewhere. People here think that salt collected at sea will be contaminated, Xu Ming told me. “The radiation will make sea salt unusable,” she continued. “I hope you have salt at your house. It’s really horrible.”
Fear from last week’s earthquake seems to now be tangible in China. Worries of nuclear fallout have spurred on a mob-like mentality that, while baseless, has begun to rattle the nation.