Monday 10 March 2014

The 2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami: 3 years later

At 2:46pm local time on March 11, 2011, a 9.03 earthquake occurred 70 kilometres (43 miles) off the coast of Japan. The quake caused a tsunami with waves as high as 40 metres (133 feet) which travelled inland as far as 10 km (6 mi). This was considered the most powerful earthquake to have ever hit Japan and the fifth largest in the world since record keeping was started in 1900.

As of February 2014, the human toll stands at 15,884 deaths, 6,147 injured, and 2,636 people missing. The property loss is listed as 127,290 buildings totally collapsed, 272,788 buildings 'half collapsed', and another 747,989 buildings partially damaged along with infrastructure damage to roads and railways plus a dam collapse. The Japanese Prime Minister called this the toughest and most difficult crisis for the country since World War II.

The natural disaster caused the meltdowns of three reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the largest nuclear incident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster (considered the worst ever) and the second (with Chernobyl) to measure Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. (Wikipedia: Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster)

This is considered the most expensive natural disaster in history with the cost of rebuilding estimated at $122 billion. (Wikipedia: Aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami)

During the course of this traumatic story, I wrote a number of articles for the online newspaper "Oye! Times" detailing the disaster and I included a number of videos shot when the tsunami hit land. I was stunned by the unbelievable power of this wall of water. I had never seen anything like it and I certainly hope I never experience such a thing firsthand.

March 11, 2014 is the third anniversary of this incredible event and I thought to revisit it by publishing some videos. When I watch them, I have to remind myself that this isn't a film with special effects; this is real, oh so very real.

Uploaded on Apr 16, 2011 by WorldchannelNews7
Caught on Tape: Tsunami hits Japan port town
New video released shows the moment when the tsunami hit a small Japanese port town

Uploaded on Mar 30, 2011 by elojoquetodolove2020
The Most Shocking Video of the Tsunami in Japan

Uploaded on Mar 11, 2011 by FinalCutKing
Incredible HD Footage of Japan Tsunami

Oye! Times - Apr 24/2011
Japan: Why no looting after the disaster? by William Belle
Curiously I discovered that there are a number a people posting videos on YouTube talking about the lack of looting during the Japanese crisis. (see Google video search: why no looting after japanese tsunami) I've watched a few of these and these individuals seem quite surprised by order during the chaos of the Japanese people. A few make comparisons with what happened in New Orleans after Katrina or in Haiti after the quake. Come to think of it, it is startling to look back on the reporting that came out of Japan after the quake and tsunami and I can't think of any stories about an upsurge in crime. I'm sure there must have been some, but that isn't the first thing that comes to mind when I think back on all I've read or viewed. Are our cultures that different? (see Google web search: why no looting after japanese tsunami)

Various pundits talk about Japan's deep seated sense of honour. No one would dare do anything to bring about shame on themselves or criticism from their neighbours. Despite the gravity of the damage caused by both the quake and the tsunami, the vast majority of people did not take advantage of the chaos to personally profit from a situation which left many homes and shops wide open to being looted. It is a lesson we could all learn.

Follow-up: Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster
While the earthquake and tsunami were unbelievable events unto themselves, this particular issue seemed to turn a disaster into a nightmare right off the dial. Imagine surviving a natural disaster only to die from radiation.

The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission found the nuclear disaster was "manmade" and that its direct causes were all foreseeable. The report also found that the plant was incapable of withstanding the earthquake and tsunami. TEPCO, regulators Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and NSC and the government body promoting the nuclear power industry (METI), all failed to meet the most basic safety requirements, such as assessing the probability of damage, preparing for containing collateral damage from such a disaster, and developing evacuation plans. (Wikipedia: Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster)

If ever there was an argument against nuclear energy as portrayed in the 1979 film The China Syndrome.

Final Word
Back in the early 1990s, I read a magazine article (Rolling Stone? The Atlantic?) where the author predicted a major earthquake in Tokyo would negatively impact the global economy in a major way. The cost of the disaster would be measured in trillions of dollars and Japan would recall its foreign debts to finance the rebuilding of the city. The idea was based on the statistics of Tokyo having suffered a major earthquake about every 70 years for the past 400 years. In 1923, the Great Kantō earthquake killed an estimated 140,000 people.

Was this earthquake the next great earthquake or is there more to come? According to The Asahi Shimbum (Japanese newspaper) in the July 2012 article "Have chances of the 'big one' striking Tokyo increased?", scientists are predicting something major happening to Tokyo. But when exactly? Some models say 5 years; some say longer, but Naoshi Hirata, a 57 year old professor leading a university research team, says it will happen while he is still alive.


Google video search: 2011 Japanese Tsunami

Wikipedia: 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
The 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku... was a magnitude 9.03 (Mw) undersea megathrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC) on 11 March 2011, with the epicentre approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku and the hypocenter at an underwater depth of approximately 32 km (20 mi). It was the most powerful known earthquake ever to have hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900. The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 40.5 metres (133 ft) in Miyako in Tōhoku's Iwate Prefecture, and which, in the Sendai area, travelled up to 10 km (6 mi) inland. The earthquake moved Honshu (the main island of Japan) 2.4 m (8 ft) east and shifted the Earth on its axis by estimates of between 10 cm (4 in) and 25 cm (10 in).

Wikipedia: List of earthquakes: by magnitude
9.5: May 22, 1960: Valdivia, Chile
9.2: March 27, 1964: Prince William Sound, Alaska, USA
9.1-9.3: December 26, 2004: Indian Ocean, Sumatra, Indonesia
9.0: November 4, 1952: Kamchatka, Russia (then USSR)
9.0: March 11, 2011: Pacific Ocean, Tōhoku region, Japan

Oye! Times - Mar 16/2011
Japan's Triple Disaster: Earthquake, Tsunami, Nuclear by William Belle
Despite the tragedy felt throughout country by the magnitude of this natural catastrophe, it all seems overshadowed by the silent and invisible danger which is brewing at the Fukushima Daiicha Nuclear Power Plant.

Oye! Times - Jun 11/2011
Japan: On-going Radiation, Protests, and an Earless Rabbit by William Belle
New fears about nuclear radiation have come out after a rabbit born close to Fukushima was discovered to have no ears. The oddity apparently occurred in the town of Namie Tsushima, which is outside the 30 kilometer area or outside the mandatory evacuation zone. Is this just a naturally occurring genetic mutation or something caused by radiation? The question is moot as it is well serving to panic an already upset public.

Google search: 2011 japan tsunami "written by william belle"

Personal Note #1
Oye! Times is an online ethnic newspaper targeting the South-east Asian community but with ties to both Canadian and American markets. In 2010, Inder, the marketing manager, approached me for permission to reprint some of my blog posts. (I am the farthest thing from South-east Asia but the paper does have a broad spectrum of interests.) For that year and 2011, I contributed a number of newspaper-like articles reporting on various world events like the Japanese disaster, the Arab Spring in Egypt, and the uprising in Libya. The work was without remuneration but with an Alexa score well under 200,000, it was a chance of writing for an audience. Ha, hardly anybody reads my blog. :-) I thank Inder for the opportunity.

Personal Note #2
Somewhere, I saw a video of a Japanese couple being interviewed on TV for some news show. They were standing on a rise of land overlooking a valley. The man pointed below and described how their home and everything they had in life had been swept away by the tsunami and they literally had nothing left. He turned to the camera and said, "We are lucky to be alive."

In my blog, I have recounted some of the trials and tribulations of my life, the ups and downs all of us have to deal with from day to day, from year to year. Nothing, absolutely nothing I've been through compares to what that Japanese couple experienced and what others in different circumstances (war, famine, pestilence, and death) have survived. Once in a while I have look down and see the plight of others to realise that my situation isn't so bad after all. There but for the grace of God go I.


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