The first wave of earthquakes in and around Japan was unbelievable. One massive earthquake of magnitude 9 (it was recently upgraded), making it the 4th biggest earthquake since 1900; with around 200 aftershocks of magnitude 5 or greater, and a tsunami that levelled entire towns. The death toll, according to Miyagi police, will definitely be above 10,000.
Many prefectures are left literally in the dark. Since earlier in the day (Japan time) seven prefectures have not been able to receive TV signals, and many cities around the quakes are struggling without power. Many people in Northern Tohoku are just starting to get their power back since the crisis began. Meanwhile, the tsunami has been doing damage in other countries.
One of the countries to be hit by the tsunami is the U.S., who have been doing a lot to help Japan, from helicopter airlifts of stranded civilians, to assistance in dealing with volatile nuclear power plants. Such plants in Fukushima Prefecture are a serious concern for people even hundreds of kilometers away. Over 200,000 people had been told to evacuate the vicinity, but there are people already being affected. One of Fukushima’s plants’ concrete walls were destroyed in a hydrogen explosion, though the containment structure was not destroyed, so experts have no idea what the status is inside the unit.
However, damage by the tsunami caused the plant to lose power, which left the temperature within the plants rising. To ensure that the temperature within the reactor systems didn’t increase too much, they let out a bit of radioactive steam, which has already been reported to have given at least three people full-blown radiation sickness, and otherwise affected many more (but it is unclear to what extent). Keep in mind that the only way to know if you have been infected (aside from symptoms) is if you actively get inspected, so there may be more who are unaware of it.
65,000 members of Japan’s Self Defence Force (military) were dispatched to help on Saturday, which has now increased to 100,000. Many people were able to go back home after the trains got moving on Saturday, including me. Trains were slow, and train stations were fairly frantic. Tokyo is packed full of hungry people. But at least many of the millions of stranded people could return home, or otherwise obtain aid.
…but this is all from the first wave.
I don’t expect the second wave to be worse, all though as time goes by, the nuclear plant situation is becoming a greater threat. The material released may drift by wind to prefectures in the Kantō region, such as Tochigi, Ibaraki, Chiba, Gunma, and Saitama. Since this situation is already a major national threat, Prime Minister Naoto Kan has issued electrical outages across the country so that engineers can asses damages to two nuclear reactors.
He remarked in a television appearance a few hours ago that Japan’s future will be determined by sacrifices the public makes in the following days and weeks. This is why I decided to write this post. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but the idea of losing power never really hit me until I heard this. But coming home to a fridge full of unrefrigerated food is a sacrifice I’m willing to make, so I’m glad to assist in any way I can. Not that it’s going to be my choice at all. I believe that the country’s power (depending on the city) will start to be turned off in about an hour. I’m not sure if internet will work, but mobile phones would be a good thing to keep charged now. Unless, of course, phone and internet service is down, in which case they would be pretty useless except for playing games, telling time, and taking pictures.
According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, there’s a 70% chance of another earthquake of magnitude 7 or more on March 14th or 15th. Then there’s a 50% chance there will be another one from the 16th to the 18th.
If there’s any bright side to be found, it’s that the affected area has already lost so much… there’s really not much left to lose from a second wave. But if it causes any more significant problems for the nuclear power plants, it might be worse than we imagined.