A hoax text message has been spreading across Asia, causing widespread panic amongst citizens. The text message, which purports to be from the BBC, claims that radiation from Japan’s damaged Fukushima nuclear plant has spread to neighbouring regions.
“Japan Government confirms radiation leak at Fukushima nuclear plants. Asian countries should take necessary precautions,” the message states. “Do not go under the rain. …Radioactive particles, which may cause burns, alopecia or even cancer, may be in the rain.”
The SMS message mentions Hong Kong and the Philippines as areas at risk of radiation. The text has been circulating around Asian countries since Monday.
The BBC has confirmed that it issued no such warning and that the text message is a hoax. “Disasters such as that currently unfolding in Japan often trigger a rise in scam texts and e-mails intended to fool users into downloading malware or simply to spread panic,” the BBC News stated.
The message reportedly caused particular panic in the Philippines, with reports of school children and workers being sent home (this was later denied by the Philippines government).
Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which was damaged during last week’s earthquake and tsunami disaster, has been shaken by a series of explosions over the past four days. Radiation has subsequently reached harmful levels, but only in the immediate area.