The 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck Japan Friday, March 11, 2011 at 2:46 p.m. shortly after at 3:00 p.m. tsunami sirens blared leaving only 11 minutes for costal residents in the northern prefectures of Japan to seek higher ground before a catastrophic tsunami hit. The time line is confirmed by the scientific findings of the USGS and NOAA. The U.S. Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center (USGS) reports that Japan’s March 11 earthquake was preceded by a series of large foreshocks over two days, beginning March 9 with an M 7.2 event approximately 40 km from the March 11 earthquake M 8.9, and continuing with a further 3 earthquakes greater than M 6 on the same day. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Center for Tsunami Research in approximately 25 minutes, the tsunami was first recorded at Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) buoy number 21418. Hence verifying the news reports of Japans’ idyllic preparation that so many survived in such a short duration of time from the earthquake to the tsunami event that caused the most destruction.
Moment During Quake Rush
In the first hours after the earthquake I was in contact with relatives Reikeo Oshiro in Okinawa, Japan and J. Shige in Hokkaido, Japan. Prior to the tsunami from accounts reported by Shige some 30 aftershocks experienced in Hokkaido as current since have lost communications after the tsunami directly as the infrastructure has been severely impacted communications and millions are left without electricity. As of current reports of some 300 aftershocks have been experienced since the March 11 quake with a recent second tsunami warning lifted. Seismic experts are estimated another large-scale magnitude quake is possible in the weeks to follow. The Prime Minister of Japan has reported some 12,000 people have been rescued in the affected Honshu and Sendai prefectures of Japan as reports of great resilience as some survived over 20 hours under severe conditions after being washed out to sea or trapped in near freezing temperatures. Search and rescue is still underway with time of the essence as it is forecasted that the weather may turn unfavorable with possibility of snow hindering recovery efforts.
U.S & Foreign Aid
North of the epic-center 150 miles from Sendai at Misawa U.S. Air Force Base where confirmed two search and recovery dog teams have arrived one from Los Angles, California and Fairfax, Virginia each team with six dogs to aid in survivor recovery. The U.S. Ronald Reagan Carrier along with five other naval carrier has been non-stop dispatching supplies via military helicopters and using the carrier deck as a staging area for distribution and fueling of Japanese helicopters even aiding Japanese Defense forces to be transported into the hardest hit areas. Another four U.S. Naval ships are expected to arrive soon. Tokyo airport saw the arrival of foreign aid relief workers in the morning hours from South Korea and New Zealand another island nation that too saw devastation from earthquakes just weeks ago. III Marine Expeditionary Forces based in Okinawa, Japan worked around the clock Friday March 12 to provide 8,600 pounds of supplies for victims of the disaster. As marines as far away as Okinawa are heading north along the west coast of Japan via helicopters are aiding transport of supplies and additional relief workers to the Sendai epic-center. Though original offers declined early, the Prime Minister is even considering aid effort from China and Russia in humanitarian assistance. The Prime Minster Japan, “Stated some 14 countries have arrived 150 f U.S, 130 France and 60 British first responders along with German, Switzerland, Taiwan, Mexico, Australia, Russia and Singapore. Some 94 countries have stepped up offering aid along with 9 international aid organizations.
Japan’s State of Nuclear Crisis
Tokyo Electric Power Co. Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power station reported a second hydrogen explosion at 11:30 am felt nearly 25 miles away. This 40yr old G.E. Nuclear facility had just pared down 2 of its’ eight reactors prior to the earthquake for maintenance and efforts were underway to do operational shutdown of the other reactors for repair of the six reactors in operation. The outer building structure damaged but the reactors is still intact in the second explosion six workers and four security defense forces were injured in the blast. A third reactor in critical condition as efforts controlling another nuclear reaction but with lack of electricity, requires dire tactics fire trucks pumping seawater to cool the cores. The third reactor present a more hazards conditions as radiation levels are rising some 80,000 have been evacuated from the original 10 km band to 20 km. Nuclear experts in the U.S. are paying close attention to the events and anticipate that the third reactor in distress may have 24-48 hours to get under control. The U.S. has 23 such similar G.E. reactors of its’ 104 nuclear reactors in operation in the U.S accounting for some 12 percent of the U.S. nuclear energy program.
The blast sent a plume of low level radioactive plume that a U.S. helicopter delivering aid supplies flew into a crew of 17 members were exposed as sensors detected the risk to the crew members. The levels low enough that the 17 members needed only to wash with soap and water for decontamination reason. While in the area some 100 people have reported some low level contamination no words if iodine pill have been distributed as Tokyo Electric Power Co. has reported levels low enough as not seeking evacuation. The low level radiation has hampered efforts as key vital staff must constantly remove themselves to reduce exposure levels a third explosion would further have dire affects controlling the other reactors on site. Due to the second explosion the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan had to relocate further north of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Low levels radiation was detected by sensors on the U.S.S Ronald Reagan. The radiation detection technology is capable of detecting radiation miles away and utilizes helium-3, a critical element. This vital element is in short supply as the United States stockpiles are quickly dwindling as of last year alternatives were in early stages of development.
The highly sensitive technology enables quick actions per first responders and soldiers reduce risk to minimal levels of exposure hindering irreversible damage to the human body. A statement from Gates via DOD press release that all service members are well and accounted for stationed in Japan was made in regards to survival of all military personnel from the tsunami and earthquake. As of confirmed all effort to ensure service members and status of recovery aid teams are monitoring the conditions and status of the power plant while providing humanitarian assistance is not disturbed and at the ready to prepare for evacuations if required. The U.S. is sending teams in two nuclear science experts and environmental experts as in the Sendai port fire is still raging of an oil refinery with reports of an oil slick heading out to sea.
Another Natural Disaster Predict an Early Warning
Another contact Rieko in Okinawa has confirmed another clear and present danger the Earthquake has awakened a volcano in the south Kyushu islands that Shinmoedake volcano that was an early warning sign several weeks before the massive earthquake has become highly unstable at this time a prior evacuation of 600 residents but any observers reported upon the island are unknown.
The closest shelter to the Fukushima Daiichi plant is located 40 miles away despite advisories to stay indoors many are force out looking for water and food. Resources and supplies low many are yet to find shelter. Most are in search of family members separated by the events of the earthquake and tsunami. The psychological strain is slowly taking its’ toll as the shock has now become to realization about the long term effort that recovery will be a further struggle. Many have accepted with calm composure despite the looming threat of another nuclear explosion, approaching weather and possible additional quakes. As conveyed with J. Shige Monday evening, “The frustration levels are rising as information from government to the people we are finding more from the communications from relatives abroad.” The effort to inform, control panic and ascertain information is accurate with a limited infrastructure has proven a major problem for the Japanese government.
While information was easily forthcoming in the beginning, due to the loss of power many communication devises are running down on batteries and with controlled rolling blackouts due to the loss of power infrastructure. The ability to convey information is becoming infrequent. There are concerns that with the limited power now ebbing away and approaching bad weather starting with rain, sleet and snow the new threat is exposure to the cold. Some 1,000 bodies have washed ashore in Miyagi bringing the approximate count Monday to 1,800 dead it is estimated the death toll around 10,000 but with time of the essence the count may exceed to 20,000 as inclement weather is approaching as potential undiscovered survivor or distressed survivors are lacking the basics. The death count is slowly declining as more survivors or missing are found every few minutes as most are tirelessly restricted as nightfall comes to seek shelter as evening temperatures drop. There are other survivors the families and friends safely abroad are coping with knowing the worst has happened to ones family some fortunate few know they are alive others uncertain. Till second contact it has been prayers and the tradition of origami paper cranes. The story of the paper crane was one little girl suffering radiation poisoning during World War II. She believed that if she folded 1,000 cranes she will get better and survive to see full recovery.
The Economy Hit In The Crisis
The Nikkei market opened seeing a 600 points drop before closing about a 30% drop in the Japan market index. The only significant rise occurred in stocks involving Japan solar and natural energy markets a clear indicator of the fear and sentiment of the future of Japan’s energy crisis looming today. Japan’s Central Bank increased asset buying to ease business fallout from damage by the earthquake. This is estimated currently to be the most expensive all earthquake disasters with costs estimated between 14 billion to 35 billion dollars as claim are slowly coming being reported. Financial analysts are predicting Japans’ economic fallout hangs upon preventing a nuclear-fallout at the Fukushima Daiichi. This as a contingent to the humanitarian prognosis to Japan’s ability to recover economically further scaring off future investments into the Nikkei market. Despite the infusion of 15 trillion yen in defense of a frail economy devastated by catastrophic disaster in hopes an economic recovery is available in the future for the people that survive today. The only thing that we can do is try to send prayers and support may Japan see the 1,000 paper cranes of hope. The little girl that made those paper cranes never lived to see them completed but this is the one time many hands are so capable that Japan may see a thousand paper cranes it’s a matter if we have time to make fly.
Sources: NOAA, USGA, III Marine Expeditionary Forces Okinawa, Japan, Tokyo Electric Co. The DOD press report direct quote from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and news via NhK News Japan not direct quotes. Information on U.S. Nuclear experts interest report Berkley college press release, and white house press release no direct quotes. G.E. Corp, and the U.S. Regulatory Commission (NCR) and Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Thanks to family accounts in Japan about the descriptive accounts felt in the wake of events. U.S. Navy,