Archive for category Natural Disaster

Of Japan’s handling of one of the biggest natural disasters they have faced, doomsday prognosticators & lobbies which have single-minded agendas, often irrational

Protesters

Protesters against nuclear plants

 

The catastrophic events in Japan, after the double whammy of a quake and a tsunami  which wrought havoc, widespread destruction & death in its wake, typically illustrated the fact how bad news is extremely newsworthy and grabs attention & eyeballs much better than any strictly factual, objective reporting. It also illustrated how self-professed or media created analysts & experts tend to come out of the woodwork and circulate around all kinds of views & scenarios which often have little factual grounding & basis and tend to emphasize and amplify the ‘bad news’ as best as possible. And seizing on all this bad news & bleak doomsday scenarios, lobbyists and various faux liberal activists & ‘jholawallas’ with fixed, often highly prejudiced & inflexible agendas start screaming their heads off about their favoured point-of-view, such breast-beating & screaming often having very little objective or factual basis. By way of illustration, relevant links with brief comments follow.

Bill Durodie, writing in TODAY summed up this scenario rather well. His piece can be read [ here ]

Yukio Edano

Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano

 

The way the political leadership in Japan responded to the crisis & the hands-on approach of the Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano & also the PM Naoto Kan, both fairly new to their jobs, was exemplary. Even then, some people expressed their disappointment & unhappiness at the situation despite the fact that these men were on top of the rapidly developing situation for most of the time and were taking decisions needed to be taken quickly, working in tandem and by rotation, tirelessly & spending sleepless nights. An idea can be got from the piece [ here ]

The exemplary sense of duty, courage and the great sense of sacrifice demonstrated by both the employees and the contract workers of the TEPCO Fukushima nuclear power plants has been written about fairly in detail and the Fukushima 50 (actually that’s a misnomer dreamt up by someone looking to create an eye-catching byline for the story, since apparently the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant had about 180 people working in batches of 50 for short periods because of the extremely risky & hazardous conditions) are possibly on their way to becoming an integral part of Japanese folklore. Some of the pieces about this group of brave, selfless men & women can be read [ here ], [ here ] & [ here ].

The blog of Michiko Otsuki, a young female employee of the Fukushima Dai-ini plant which quickly and efficiently achieved a cold shutdown can be read [here]. While this is translated from the original in Japanese, the original blog had to be taken down by her, because all kinds of people started misconstruing it and deliberately giving it all kinds of slant.

The way the Japanese people in general have reacted to the disaster and the crisis has been exemplary and there are lessons to be learnt here for much of the rest of the world. Nicholas Kristof of the NYT, who was the bureau chief in Japan some years back and who witnessed the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake in ’95 writes about that experience [ here ] & about the lessons that can be learnt from the present disaster [ here ]. The lessons the British could draw from the way the Japanese have handled this whole episode till now can be read  [ here ]. One wonders what lessons the Indian politicians, bureaucracy and even the people may have drawn from this. Given the severe administrative & governance deficits presently plaguing the country as well as the serial scams which come to light virtually every week, one doubts of course whether either the politicians or the bureaucracy is even in a frame of mind to learn any lessons from any such event or episode.

The most dismaying, perplexing or amusing, depending on the way one looks at it, has been the coverage of the potential nuclear meltdown situation, following the earthquake and the tsunami at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. While the basic source of information was principally from TEPCO personnel on the ground, Japanese officials & bodies like the IAEA, mediapersons, homegrown experts & instant analysts who came out of the woodwork by the dozens revelled in painting all kinds of scenarios, mostly bleak, and giving their armchair interpretations of what the reality is possibly like, implying in the process that the information frequently being shared by the concerned Japanese personnel & officials was not possibly reliable or even believable. Since there is no point in even providing the links to some of these works of fantasy, here are some links from industry bodies & sources with some integrity about the situation [ here ], [ here ] & [ here ].
An informed, objective presentation about the modus operandi of nuclear power plants like Fukushima can be viewed [ here ]

Now that the heroic band of men & women, generally getting to be known as the Fukushima 50, have succeeded in stabilising the situation and reattaching the power cables which would enable water to be pumped in again to cool the reactors (check this link here), I presume that the media will soon lose interest in the whole business since hopefully not much bad news will be forthcoming from here onwards. The current situation in Libya will of course dominate the news cycle for a few days at least.

Timeline Graphics of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant problems

 

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Japan – Combined with the earthquake and tsunami aftermath, the threat of a nuclear meltdown looks like making this the disaster story of the decade

 

Iconic picture of people trekking home along the train lines.

To start with, some stunning & distressing pictures of the aftermath of the quake & tsunami which hit Japan

Aftermath of quake & Tsunami

The explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, whether from a distance or up close looked big & worrying enough. Have a look:

Video clip of explosion at nuclear power plant

Together with these video clips of a tsunami sweeping through the town of Kesennuma and another nortthern town,literally destroying them in minutes, the picture of the devastation & the damage was looking horrifying indeed..

Tsunami sweeping through Kesennuma City – Video Clip

Tsunami destroying northern town in Japan – Video clip

Most of the reports however seemed to suggest that a meltdown of the core had been averted as you can check out [ here ], [ here ] & [ here ].

The fact that sea-water was being planned to use to cool the reactor possibly means that the reactor is a write-off in any case. Given the corrosive properties of sea-water, no one would ever want to cool a reactor with sea-water if they planned to use it again.

Latest reports about the situation at the nuclear power plants affected can be found [ here ], [ here ],  [ here ] & [ here ]

Here are some more pictures and video clips laying bare the extent of the devastation and the damage.

A compilation from boston.com

Wall Street Journal, Tokyo office compilation

Cars, cruisers & even houses being swept away by the tsunami – Video clip

Scary video footage of massive tsunami waves advancing

Here are some accounts of the aftermath from the NYT and the Guardian

Much has been made of Japan’s preparedness for earthquakes and the fact that it is possibly the most earthquake-proof nation in the world. However as this article and  this one very aptly states, no amount of preparation & precautions can quite fortify an island from the ‘Big One’. Given its magnitude of 8.9 on the Richter scale, Japan has never ever experienced one like this one, ever.

The coming days will bring out several more stories of death, devastation & damage. An aftershock of 6.4 magnitude has struck again near Honshu, pretty close to the damaged & leaking nuclear reactor. The saga continues as can be seen [ here ]

It seems appropriate to round off this sad saga for now, with two messages, one received very soon from an inmate after the earthquake first struck and the other from someone else apprehensive of what the very near future might bring

Hi
Thanks for your kind enquiry.

We are close to Tokyo; until now we are all safe.
I was taking a break in the field and removing weeds when the big one came at around 2:45. This was the biggest I have experienced in my 27 years in Japan. I had to hold on to a nearby tree; the tremor was long and slow. I could see my car also gently swaying!

The epicenter was about 200 to 250 km north of where I say. The northern part has suffered a lot of damage through tsunami too (7.3 m). Tsunami is expected to hit near my house too; we never know.

Incidentally, Japan has never experienced an earthquake of magnitude 8.8 in its history.
I’m sure tomorrow morning will bring in the results of the devastation and misery.
God help the poor souls!


Beware of the Supermoon – On March 19 2011 the Moon will be closer to the earth than it’s been since 1992. It will mean that it will be brighter and larger in the sky than other full moons, but some believe that the super moon is connected to natural disasters.

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