Sunday, June 12, 2011

Japan - Three Long Months On

Well, it's been just over three months or so since the fateful events of March 11, 2011. The earthquake. The tsunami. The nuclear disaster. Well, as expected, the situation in Japan has largely left the media perspective, and as a result it's a little difficult to know what the current situation is these days (sitting outside of Japan).

However, here's a reminder of a few of the important things:
  1. The earthquake, Magnitude 9.0, struck at 14:46 Japanese Standard Time about 130km from the major city of Sendai, at a depth of 32 km below ground.
  2. The earthquake moved the crust by 10-20m, resulting in an overall shift of the island of Honshu eastwards by over 2m., and down by up to 0.8m
  3. The ensuing initial tsunami struck the mainland somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes afterwards, with the vision of the inundation of Sendai Airport occurring at 15:55 (over an hour later). The initial wave was not the most powerful to hit. The height of the wave was initially estimated as 10m, however, in some locations was as high as 38m - with even a 2+m tsunami hitting Chiba prefecture near Tokyo.
  4. The tsunami(s) inundated approximately 470 km2, depositing some 23 million tonnes of debris in the main three effected prefectures.
  5. The death toll of the March 11th earthquake and tsunami is 15,413 confirmed deaths, and an extra 8,069 people reported missing (as of 12/6/2011).
  6. As of the 14th of March, some 468,000+ people were displaced into shelters, that number has now dropped to just over 90,000 people remaining in shelters.
  7. The nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Reactors were classified as a Level 7 nuclear accident on April 11th, a month after the initial incident...and it wasn't until May 20th that it was officially recognized that a meltdown of Reactor 1 had in fact occured, and indeed that the reactor chamber has been breached. This reactor is continuing to leak large volumes of highly radioactive water into the plant. It is speculated that similar situations may exist in the other reactors.
  8. Japanese power companies have yet to recovery electricity production to meet expected demand over summer, and have been suggesting that a further 15% reduction in power use will need to be achieved to avoid the rolling blackouts which occurred early after the disaster.
  9. It is quite likely that the total radiation emitted from these reactors will exceed Chernobyl (if it hasn't already... ). 
The reality is that Japan is still very much reeling from the the effects of the triple disaster, and it's good to remember that the challenges facing the country are still very much real. Whilst the world's media attention may have moved on to more important things, the reality is that beyond the stoic patience of the Japanese lies a very wounded country facing what has been called the most expensive natural disaster in the world.


  1. I was watching TV yesterday, and they were talking about the problems the people in Tohoku are still facing. The smell of rotting garbage that hasn't been removed yet, the conditions in the emergency shelters people are still living in. All just so sad. It'll take a long time to make things right again. Sarahf

  2. I read that only about 5-10% of the debris had been removed as yet - and when you think about what's potentially included in that debris, it's pretty scary.

    I don't think that we can really appreciate (even from within Japan) just how they're suffering in the affected areas.