Main Facts about the Japanese Tsunami & Earthquake 2011 – Part 2

This is Part 2. If you have read it already, read Part 1 first.

Looking back on all that has happened, the government of Japan failed to be honest with the Japanese public and the world. Reports from official bodies were conflicting so severity could not be determined. For example, after the government said there was nothing to fear on March 19, the evacuation zone was extended from 10 to 20km (140 000 people). As of March 28, that grew to a 30km zone. A further contradiction was the government initially saying that is was a 4 (out of a possible 7) on the INES scale (nuclear disaster scale) yet international bodies at the time were ranging between 5 & 6, making this the second worst disaster in history after Chernobyl. Several days later, the Japanese altered their assessment to a 5. US ships had already detected radiation and moved further away from shore. There was a report of a small trace of radiation in Tokyo on Tuesday, March 15, but not harmful levels. On Wednesday, March 16, France suggested that it’s citizens evacuate or move to the south of Japan. Similarly, Turkey and the USA advised their citizens as well. In the Chiba area, on March 24, radiation levels in water were above what is considered safe for babies. On April 12, the Japanese government raised the INES nuclear disaster rating to a 7, the highest it can go (only Chernobyl had previously received that).

In the first week of the disaster, Japanese experts were optimistic that a meltdown wouldn’t occur despite many saying that the use of seawater to cool the reactors was an act of desperation (because it’s the first time it’s ever been done in history). Nevertheless, the sea will likely dilute it so that it will pose no harmful affects to humans.

The government will eventually face backlash as the 40 year old nuclear power plant was suppose to have been decommissioned in February 2011 but instead had it’s licence extended another decade.The plant has previously failed or skipped security checks. Toshiba, the maker of the reactors, said it could decommission the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant over 10 years. This would involve removing the fuel rods from four of the plant’s reactors. Where the rods will be stored is unknown and begs further debate.

HOMES DESTROYED
530 000 people lost their homes
(over 59 000 houses and buildings). Over 495 000 people were in temporary shelters but that has dropped to 130 000.

ELECTRICITY LOSS
At it’s worst stage, 1.2 million
households has lost electricity. Figure now stands at 180 000.

WATER
At it’s worst stage, 2.4 million households did not have running water. Figure now stands at 260 000.

EMERGENCY RESCUE
50 000
(soldiers, coast guard etc.) were initially deployed for emergency work. That figure rose to 100 000. American troops are heavily involved in assisting.

OTHER MAJOR DAMAGES
An oil refinery caught ablaze.

A dam burst in Fukushima resulting in many homes being destroyed.

6 harbours (sea ports) have been damaged and will take months to repair. One can hold 11 million barrels of oil products by itself. Hopefully there’s no pollution disaster looming!

DAMAGE AMOUNT
Damage estimates as high as $300 billion have been predicted.

ECONOMY
Japan’s economy was already struggling with huge debt ($5 trillion). This will become their biggest crisis since WW2 but, in the longer run (as it happened after the Kobe earthquake), construction will probably assist their economy, especially since so many corporations were already fragile before the earthquake. In the countryside, however, where the elderly compose as much as 40% of the population, damage seems irreparable. Additionally, Japan’s $6 trillion annual economy is fronted by poor leadership and exports are taking a beating.

Japanese stocks dropped sharply on Monday (March 14) to their lowest level in 4 months despite the Bank of Japan injecting a record ¥15 trillion into the economy. Hardest hit were power companies, car manufacturers and insurers. Nikkei average dropped by as much as 14% but rallied on Wednesday) to -11% in comparison to last Friday. It has continued to climb after intervention into the money market by the G7. As of April 16, tourism was down by 50%. With the fishing industry having experienced major damage and many agricultural products being banned by foreign countries, Japan is in for the most challenging period in its history.

POLITICS
The USA was under severe criticism for it’s many military bases on Japanese soil. The Japanese disaster was “fortuitous” in that the USA was quick to try win the hearts and minds of the Japanes public with a rescue operation entitled Operation Tomodachi (“Friend” in Japaneses). This has involved 18,000 people, 20 U.S. Navy ships and barges delivering fresh water to cool the Fukushima reactors.

A M A Z I N G S T O R I E S
A B O U T T H E J A P A N E S E T S U N A M I

A man was found floating on a piece of his house’s roof, approximately 15 km offshore. He was rescued.

A story i expect to emerge is the heroism of people at the nuclear plants! Here was an early article about them by the BBC. It has been reported that 3 workers ignored the alarm from their radiation meters so as to work on restoring power. 2 of these are in hospital with radiation burns after radioactive water got in their boots. As of March 28, radiation levels are so high that workers nearest the contaminated water would have received 4 times their maximum annual dose of radiation in just 1 hour.

A fascinating story in contrast is of 240 citizens of Onagawa finding safety from the tragedy at their local nuclear plant. Read about that HERE.

 


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