Tag Archives: Tsunami

Helicopter flyover of Japanese nuclear plant shows scary apocalyptic scene

Helicopter video of Japan’s troubled Fukushima Nuclear plant from yesterday indicates how extensive the damage at the plant is from the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent explosions.

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A Personal Account Of The Earthquake From A Hotel Room

I  SET out from my home in the port city of Yokohama early in the afternoon last Friday, and shortly before 3 p.m. I checked into my hotel in the Shinjuku neighborhood of Tokyo. I usually spend three or four days a week there to write, gather material and take care of other business.

The earthquake hit just as I entered my room. Thinking I might end up trapped beneath rubble, I grabbed a container of water, a carton of cookies and a bottle of brandy and dived beneath the sturdily built writing desk. Now that I think about it, I don’t suppose there would have been time to savor a last taste of brandy if the 30-story hotel had fallen down around me. But taking even this much of a countermeasure kept sheer panic at bay.
Before long an emergency announcement came over the P.A. system: “This hotel is constructed to be absolutely earthquake-proof. There is no danger of the building collapsing. Please do not attempt to leave the hotel.” This was repeated several times. At first I wondered if it was true. Wasn’t the management merely trying to keep people calm?
And it was then that, without really thinking about it, I adopted my fundamental stance toward this disaster: For the present, at least, I would trust the words of people and organizations with better information and more knowledge of the situation than I. I decided to believe the building wouldn’t fall. And it didn’t.
The Japanese are often said to abide faithfully by the rules of the “group” and to be adept at forming cooperative systems in the face of great adversity. That would be hard to deny today. Valiant rescue and relief efforts continue nonstop, and no looting has been reported.
Away from the eyes of the group, however, we also have a tendency to behave egoistically — almost as if in rebellion. And we are experiencing that too: Necessities like rice and water and bread have disappeared from supermarkets and convenience stores. Gas stations are out of fuel. There is panic buying and hoarding. Loyalty to the group is being tested.
At present, though, our greatest concern is the crisis at the nuclear reactors in Fukushima. There is a mass of confused and conflicting information. Some say the situation is worse than Three Mile Island, but not as bad as Chernobyl; others say that winds carrying radioactive iodine are headed for Tokyo, and that everyone should remain indoors and eat lots of kelp, which contains plenty of safe iodine, which helps prevent the absorbtion of the radioactive element. An American friend advised me to flee to western Japan.
Some people are leaving Tokyo, but most remain. “I have to work,” some say. “I have my friends here, and my pets.” Others reason, “Even if it becomes a Chernobyl-class catastrophe, Fukushima is 170 miles from Tokyo.”
My parents are in western Japan, in Kyushu, but I don’t plan to flee there. I want to remain here, side by side with my family and friends and all the victims of the disaster. I want to somehow lend them courage, just as they are lending courage to me.
And, for now, I want to continue the stance I took in my hotel room: I will trust the words of better-informed people and organizations, especially scientists, doctors and engineers whom I read online. Their opinions and judgments do not receive wide news coverage. But the information is objective and accurate, and I trust it more than anything else I hear.
Ten years ago I wrote a novel in which a middle-school student, delivering a speech before Parliament, says: “This country has everything. You can find whatever you want here. The only thing you can’t find is hope.”
One might say the opposite today: evacuation centers are facing serious shortages of food, water and medicine; there are shortages of goods and power in the Tokyo area as well. Our way of life is threatened, and the government and utility companies have not responded adequately.
But for all we’ve lost, hope is in fact one thing we Japanese have regained. The great earthquake and tsunami have robbed us of many lives and resources. But we who were so intoxicated with our own prosperity have once again planted the seed of hope. So I choose to believe.
Originally published on NYTIMES by RYU MURAKAMI
Ryu Murakami is the author of “Popular Hits of the Showa Era.” This article was translated by Ralph F. McCarthy from the Japanese.

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‘We’re not running away’: Fukushima worker

ONE lone voice has emerged from the group of heroic workers at Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), which runs the quake-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, where workers are scrambling to cool the nuclear plant and avoid a meltdown.

Michiko Otsuki – a female worker at Tepco – has written on her blog, speaking up for her ‘silent’ colleagues who remained behind at the plant.

She had been quoted a little in some overseas English reports but The Straits Times Online tracked and translated her blog to find out her full story when she first posted on popular Japanese social networking site Mixi.

By Thursday however, her post had been taken down, but the entry had already been reproduced by several online blogs and in Japanese language forums.

Ms Otsuki is one of the 800 employees evacuated from the plant on Monday, leaving 50 workers behind to battle the nuclear crisis.

On Tuesday, she addressed the growing criticisms levelled at Tepco.

‘People have been flaming Tepco,’ she said. ‘But the staff of Tepco have refused to flee, and continue to work even at the peril of their own lives. Please stop attacking us.’

Tepco, which powers Japan’s capital and largest city Tokyo, is one of the main players in the world of Japanese nuclear power, with a history of safety violations.

Even Prime Minister Naoto Kan, frustrated that an explosion featured in the news had not been reported to the Prime Minister’s office, is reported to have burst into an executive meeting at the company and demanded what was going on.

However, Ms Otsuki’s blog post gives the world a glimpse of the tireless, faceless crew – now dubbed the Fukushima 50 – who are working on the frontline to stop the nuclear crisis from escalating, risking the effects of radiation. In the most severe cases, radiation can lead to higher chances of developing cancer, or even death.

‘As a worker at Tepco and a member of the Fukushima No. 2 reactor team, I was dealing with the crisis at the scene until yesterday (Monday).’

‘In the midst of the tsunami alarm (last Friday), at 3am in the night when we couldn’t even see where we going, we carried on working to restore the reactors from where we were, right by the sea, with the realisation that this could be certain death,’ she said.

‘The machine that cools the reactor is just by the ocean, and it was wrecked by the tsunami. Everyone worked desperately to try and restore it. Fighting fatigue and empty stomachs, we dragged ourselves back to work.

‘There are many who haven’t gotten in touch with their family members, but are facing the present situation and working hard.’

Battling On

‘Please remember that. I want this message to reach even just one more person. Everyone at the power plant is battling on, without running away.

‘To all the residents (around the plant) who have been alarmed and worried, I am truly, deeply sorry.

‘I am writing my name down, knowing I will be abused and hurt because of this. There are people working to protect all of you, even in exchange for their own lives.

‘Watching my co-workers putting their lives on the line without a second thought in this situation, I’m proud to be a member of Tepco, and a member of the team behind Fukushima No. 2 reactor.

‘I hope to return to the plant and work on the restoration of the reactor.’

But her pleas seem to have gone unheard. The original post has now been taken down and she has instead posted an apology: ‘I am very sorry, but I have locked the post as it was being used in a way I had not intended it to be.

‘Having seen what’s happening on the ground, my message to all of you remains the same. But others have changed the contents of the post and used it for the wrong reasons, like fanning fear amongst others, and I have therefore decided to lock my post.

‘I am praying from the bottom of my heart for the safety of your loved ones. I am sorry it (the blog post) has turned out this way.’

 

Originally Published in Strait Times by Hannah Koh

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