Companies like Rising S Co. in Texas say they have seen an increase in inquiries and sales for bomb shelters and underground bunkers like the one pictured. File photo courtesy of Rising S Co./Facebook
Aug. 11 (UPI) -- Businesses across the United States -- and Japan -- are reporting an increase in sales of bomb shelters and other survival items as rhetoric over nuclear weapons ramps up.
The owner of Montebello, Calif.-based Atlas Survival, Ron Hubbard, told WABC-TV in Los Angeles that he's had lines of people at his shop in recent days.
"Instead of calling me like they normally do, they've gone in their car and they've driven down here to see what is available ... [They] buy them on the spot, and I've never seen that in my entire career doing this," he said.
In late July, Hubbard told Bloomberg he had seen an increase in sales out of Japan -- "Japan's going hog wild right now," he said.
An underground-shelter maker in Texas, Rising S Co., said in late July that inquiries about its products had doubled in the previous three weeks. General manager Gary Lynch told Bloomberg that about 80 percent of those came from Japan.
"People are genuinely afraid," said Seiichiro Nishimoto, president of Shelter Co., an Osaka-based installer of nuclear shelters imported from Israel. "That's why we're getting so many calls."
The bump in U.S. sales this week, though, appears to be coinciding with increased threats between North Korea's military and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Japan has long been confronted with the threat of a missile attack from nearby North Korea -- the Japanese government's website has safety tips and schoolchildren are given bomb drill instructions. But in recent weeks, Pyongyang has successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, one that could reach Alaska.
And just this week, a U.S. intelligence analysis said North Korea has figured out how to miniaturize a nuclear warhead that could fit on an ICBM. That news precipitated a series of back-and-forth threats between the United States and North Korea, with Trump promising to unleash "fire and fury" against the Kim Jong Un regime.
In Detroit, the manager of an Army supply store said that a few people have mentioned the North Korean threat when purchasing survival products like gas masks and the radiation antidote potassium iodide in the past week or so.
"Some woman came in earlier and said she had to get it because of little Kim," Ben Orr told WWJ-TV in Detroit, who assumed she was talking about Kim Jong Un. "I don't know if she was making a joke or just got it mixed up."
He said his shop has been "unusually busy" and he's seen a substantial increase in potassium iodide sales.
"It actually stops your thyroid from absorbing any radiation. So, it fills your thyroid with iodine, which it normally does anyways," Orr said. "Your body can't tell the difference between bad, radioactive iodine and acceptable iodine, so it actually will stop you from getting thyroid cancer."
Luxury at a cost
While some bomb shelters are small -- little larger than panic rooms that can fit in a garage and sell for $10,000 -- others can cost millions and offer luxurious living for years.
A company called Survival Condo has turned an old, defunct Atlas missile silo into a series of luxury condominiums. Full-floor condos sold for $3 million, while half-floor units of about 900 square feet, sold for $1.5 million.
But not every floor is living space. Other levels are common spaces that include an indoor shooting range, pool, dog park, rock-climbing wall, arcade, exercise facility, as well as space to grow hydroponic food and a digital weather station. The company says the facility's 2.5-to-9-foot walls can withstand a nuclear bomb and winds in excess of 500 mph.
The shelter can sustained 75 people for more than five years.
The silo's condos are sold out, but the company says it intends to build more out of one of the other 71 Atlas missile silos built by the Army Corps of Engineers.