Videos Shed Light on Chaos at Fukushima as a Nuclear Crisis Unfolded via The New York Times

Above all, the videos depict mayhem at the plant, a lack of preparedness so profound that too few buses were on hand to carry workers away in the event of an evacuation. They also paint a close-up portrait of the man at the center of the crisis, Mr. Yoshida, who galvanizes his team of engineers as they defy explosions and fires — and sometimes battle their own superiors.

The footage is especially poignant because Mr. Yoshida, 57, is now fighting for his life after being found to have esophageal cancer and suffering a brain hemorrhage last month — illnesses that several experts in the United States say are almost surely not a result of radiation exposure from the accident, given how quickly they came on.

At one point in the videos, as conditions at Reactor No. 3 are deteriorating, raising fears of an explosion, Mr. Yoshida sends a team of workers out from the bunker with this message: “I’m truly sorry. Please proceed with the utmost care.”

He later suggests that if the situation does not improve soon, he and some older workers will consider “a suicide mission” to pump water into the reactor, a decision officials at headquarters said they would leave to him.

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