Until this month, most folk in the UK probably weren't terribly bothered about earthquakes or most other natural disasters, but recent events could make products like this Japanese mobile-phone hand-crank emergency charger a must-have.

From an obscure mail-order specialist called Nodaya Denki , the Eco Air's [sic] charger costs ¥1,980 (£8.30) and relies on elbow grease to provide talk time when there's no regular power source, such as after one of Japan's almost-daily quakes or a power cut.

Potential lifesaver

Three minutes of winding the crank on the side of the phone-sized device should provide up to eight minutes of call time, which - and this is the point - could be the difference between being entombed in rubble forever or pulled out alive. Aside from the phone charger, there are also red and white LED lamps that will run for 20 minutes after the same amount of winding.

Best of all, the set supplied with the Eco Air's includes cables with adapters for phones on all of Japan's major networks, so there's no reason why this cheapo lifesaver shouldn't become available overseas.