Is history to repeat? I’ve seen damage first-hand, and hope not!
From the International Herald Tribune: It was perhaps the surest sign that Japan remains unnerved by last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. After a large quake on Friday hit near the same area stricken last year, broadcasters on the public television network NHK threw aside their usual reserve to repeatedly issue worried warnings about tsunamis, with one host frantically urging people to “flee now to save your life!”
For the network, which has long taken pride in its staid presentation of the news, the tone was a distinct break with past, when a premium was put on avoiding panic and retaining the type of composure in the face of adversity that is so valued in Japan.
This time, the country appeared to get lucky. The 7.3-magnitude quake that struck at 5:29 p.m. under the seabed off the northeast shore of Honshu, the country’s largest island, was the largest aftershock since immediately after last year’s quake, according to the National Earthquake Information Center in Colorado. But it was small compared to last year’s 9.0 quake, which the center said released about 1,200 times more energy and which created a tsunami that wiped away seaside villages. About 18,600 people died in the double disaster.
On Friday, the water rose only about three feet in some places. And the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency said that the Japanese authorities reported they had detected no trouble at any of the nuclear plants in the area. Last year, the wall of water generated by the quake swamped the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which later had meltdowns in three reactors that spread contamination over wide areas of land.
Although buildings swayed on Friday in Tokyo and as far away as Osaka, about 550 miles from the epicenter, there were no immediate reports of heavy damage, according to news agencies. Several people were injured in the north, news reports said, but as of Saturday morning only one person was reported missing and possibly dead.
NHK reported that the man, a fisherman from the Tohoku region, took his boat out to sea to ride out any tsunami. His boat was later found about three miles offshore without him on it; but since there appeared to have been no large waves, it was unclear what might have happened to him.
Earlier, NHK appeared to be taking no chances of playing down the potential for disaster, flashing the words “Tsunami! Evacuate!” in big red letters until the warnings were lifted about two hours after the quake.
The broadcaster was stung by an outpouring of criticism last year that it had not urged people along the shoreline forcefully enough to flee the destructive waves. (The public network was also criticized for some of its post-earthquake coverage, when it was accused of going too soft on the government.)
In a country that has always kept a studied calm during its all-too-frequent earthquakes, the reaction to Friday’s quake was reported to be swift and orderly, with some residents calmly leaving for higher ground before a tsunami alert was issued. Still, residents spoke of the emotional strain from the continued aftershocks and fears of another tsunami.
A man named Taichi Sato said on Twitter: “For us, the disaster isn’t over. Something could happen that could destroy what we’ve only started to rebuild.” According to his Web site, he runs a project bringing volunteers to do tsunami cleanup in Ishinomaki, which was hard hit last year.
Elsewhere, there were signs that complacency might be creeping back. On Thursday, a radiological cleanup worker helping to remove contaminated soil from Naraha, a town in Fukushima Prefecture that remains partially evacuated because of radiation fears, appeared not to be worried about storing bags of that dirt along the coastline.
The worker, who declined to give his name, brushed off questions over whether those bags might be torn in another tsunami. “There isn’t going to be another tsunami,” he said.
Ken Belson and Shreeya Sinha contributed reporting from New York.
- Japan Quake in Nuclear Plant Area Stirs Brief Alarm (nytimes.com)
- Tsunami hits northeast Japan after 7.3-magnitude quake (straitstimes.com)
- Powerful quake injures 13 in Japan, 1 missing|chinadaily.com.cn – China Daily (chinadaily.com.cn)
- Japan on tsunami alert after powerful quake (abc.net.au)
- Five injured in Japan quake, tsunami warning lifted (vancouversun.com)
- Tsunami alert after 7.3-magnitude quake rocks Japan (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Small tsunami waves hit Japan’s Miyagi Prefecture after strong earthquake (foxnews.com)
- 7.3 magnitude earthquake hits Japan (thehindu.com)
Beaches on the West Coast are getting a regular dose of debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. The first few items were curiosities — a boat here, a soccer ball there — but as the litter accumulates, officials such as Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire have acknowledged the scale of the problem. Environmental News Network reports.
“We are in for a steady dribble of tsunami debris over the next few years, so any response by us must be well-planned — and it will be,” she said.
Beyond the obvious problem of litter, officials are on the lookout for hidden dangers.
The tsunami swept an estimated 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean. Japanese scientists guess about 70 percent of that sank right away, which leaves maybe 1.5 million tons still floating around.
“It’s everywhere,” says Carey Morishige, the Pacific Islands coordinator of the marine debris program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s spread out across nearly the entire Pacific Ocean.”
Morishige says the debris can’t really be tracked from above — it’s too hard to see. So her agency uses computer models to predict its movement.
“All marine debris does not move the same,” she says. “It depends on what the particular item is. If it sticks above the water quite a lot, winds tend to move the item faster.”
Toshiharu Ota, a rice farmer in Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan, survived theearthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster last year. But his fields were devastated by the saltdeposits left behind when the tsunami’s floodwaters receded. China Daily reports.
Salt damage can cut the yield of a rice crop in half.
Now, to help farmers like Mr. Ota, a research team is working to develop a salt-tolerant variety ofrice.
“With the rice variety we’re developing we should see the yield only drop by 20 percent,” saidTomoko Abe at Riken, a research organization. “We should also see less fragmented rice.”
The tsunami’s waves, up to 40 meters high, engulfed the coastline around Ishinomaki City, whereMr. Ota lives, devastating hundreds of thousands of lives and washing away whole sections oftowns and farmland. Miyagi Prefecture estimated the cost of damage to agricultural land andfacilities at $4.6 billion, making it one of the prefectures hardest hit economically by the disaster.
Rice has traditionally been a leading crop in northeastern Japan. Miyagi Prefecture’s 2010 harvestfetched $818 million. But last year the harvested rice acreage fell short of target by 4,600 hectares.In total, 11 percent of the prefecture’s farmland was damaged.
Mr. Ota, who farmed 11 hectares of rice paddies, said nearly half were flooded. Local workershave labored hard to remove salt from the soil in the past year.
“Even with desalination, the yield has dropped,” said Mr. Ota, 56.
Once dissolved into the soil, salt is hard to remove. It tends to stick to other elements and comesout only when plant roots emit an acid that breaks away minerals, including sodium chloride, to beabsorbed by the plant, he said.
The salt-tolerant rice project involves heavy ion beam technology developed by Riken.
Mainly used in nuclear physics and also in medical applications like cancer treatment, heavy ionbeam technology was first applied by Riken to speed up mutations in plants in 1989. Ms. Abe,research group director of accelerator applications at Riken, helped to develop the world’s first salt-tolerant rice variety, based on the Nipponbare rice strain, in 2006.
For the current project, grains of two popular rice varieties, Hitomebore and Manamusume, havebeen exposed to heavy ion beams generated by a particle accelerator.
“We’ve had success in developing one variety of salt-resistant rice, although this variety doesn’ttaste that great,” said Ms. Abe.
There are only six ion beam accelerator facilities for plant breeding in the world, and four of themare in Japan.
In the year since the tsunami, about 5,250 hectares of farmland in Miyagi Prefecture have beendesalinated, including rice paddies. The prefecture aims to clean up an additional 4,100 hectaresthis year and a final 3,650 hectares in 2013.
Salt-tolerant rice varieties could also help the region cope with land subsidence. Miyagi andsurrounding coastal farmlands now face a higher risk of saltwater damage, experts say, becausethe earthquake’s seismic shift caused large parts of northeastern Japan to sink.
Mr. Ota’s farmland has sunk by about 80 centimeters. Closer to the epicenter, the subsidence isgreater. Oshika Peninsula, just a short drive away, was the closest place to the epicenter of theoffshore quake. Land there sank by 1.2 meters and slid horizontally eastward by 5.3 meters,according to the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan.
“We’re not dealing with just seawater but also flooding from storms,” Mr. Ota said. “We have asharp increase in drainage water that lingers on our farmland.”
Being able to grow a sodium-tolerant variety of rice may determine whether some farmers cancontinue to stay in agriculture, said Kazuhisa Matsunaga, who works for Zen-noh Miyagi, anagricultural cooperative.
Some coastal farmlands have dropped almost to sea level. “It would make a difference for them tobe able to continue farming using a variety that would be forgiving to soil that has some sodiumleft,” Mr. Matsunaga said.
Takashi Endo, a researcher in Miyagi Prefecture, said it could take two years to develop a salt-resistant variety and another two years to grow enough seeds to bring it to commercial scale.
“We hope that our research results will be a bright spot for farmers affected by the disaster,” Mr.Endo said.
- Japan Is Now Testing Nuclear-Powered Crops (businessinsider.com)
- Salt-tolerant rice: Nuclear-powered crops (economist.com)
- Japan uses Nuclear Accelerator to Mutate Rice for Salt Tolerance (nextbigfuture.com)
- National › Emperor, empress visit Sendai (japantoday.com)
- U.S. volunteers repairing tsunami-hit buildings in Miyagi Pref. (english.kyodonews.jp)
“Teachers and schools could play a role in increasing local communities’ ability to deal with disasters”. Yes, indeed, but need to be supported to engage with adequate resources – the importance of groups such as NAEE -
Thais and foreigners gathered in six tsunami-hit provinces 26 December to commemorate the anniversary of the deadly giant waves that ravaged the Andaman coast seven years ago, killing thousands and shocking the world. From ‘The Nation’ newspaper |
Religious rituals were conducted at many sites in dedication to those who lost their lives.
“I miss my dad. I hope such a disaster will never happen again,” nine-year-old Hatchai Noophom said. His father was among at least 8,000 killed or lost in Thailand.
Grief still filled the air as relatives of the victims laid down flowers at the Tsunami Wall of Remembrance in Phuket yesterday.
The anniversary also brought attention to the need for disaster preparedness.
In Phuket’s Kathu, provincial officials and others held activities to raise public awareness about disasters and to push for better preparation.
At a seminar there, Foundation of National Disaster Warning Council chairman Dr Smith Dhammasaroj said curriculum material would ensure that students from upper |primary levels learn about disasters including tsunamis, landslides, forest fires and floods.
“Students should be encouraged to study about disasters that often |hit their area because the knowledge will raise their level of preparedness,” the disaster official said.
But Assoc Prof Dr Seree Supharatid, who heads the Centre on Climate Change and Disaster |at Rangsit University, said curricula so far failed to include disaster content. “This is despite the fact that the tsunami hit hard seven years ago.”
Seree said learning materials should equip children with survival skills, and an awareness that in times of crisis there would be no electricity or cell-phone signals to rely on.
Dr Amornwich Nakornthap, an academic adviser to the Quality Learning Foundation, said teachers and schools could play a role in increasing local communities’ ability to deal with disasters.
In Ranong, provincial disaster prevention and mitigation chief Chasan Kongruang said the early-warning system was comprehensive now following the 2004 tsunami. “If giant waves are to hit again, we should be able to avoid huge losses.”
He added that evacuation drills had also been conducted to ensure locals knew where to run for safety in times of emergency.
- Remember 7 years ago : Tsunami death toll rises to 23,700 (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Report: Japanese tsunami led to 3-6% higher transaction prices for certain cars (autoblog.com)
- Remember Fukushima? (Video) (politicsandfinance.blogspot.com)
- Types of Disasters (access2010.wordpress.com)
- Asia Pacific Region Faces Rising Costs From Storms, Disasters – Voice of America (voanews.com)
- Japan’s nuclear disaster response was riddled with problems, says report (thehindu.com)
- Japan not prepared for its nuclear disaster, says report – ABC Online (abcasiapacificnews.com)
- Government hit for failure to act on flood peril. (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- ‘Lack of preparation and poor communication’: Damning assessment of Japan’s response to nuclear crisis following deadly tsunami (dailymail.co.uk)
- Funding gap leaves world ‘dangerously unprepared’ for natural disasters (telegraph.co.uk)
The death toll from the southern Asia earthquake rose dramatically today, with some reports estimating that 23,700 people had died in the resulting tidal waves.
As a huge aid mission swung into action, rescue workers were still assessing the aftermath of the world’s worst earthquake in 40 years. Experts warned that another quake might strike at any time.
Officials in Sri Lanka announced that the death toll in that country, which was the worst hit, had increased by 5,000 to 12,000, including 200 foreigners.
There have been fatalities in eight countries, including as far away as Somalia on Africa’s eastern coast. But the worst hit areas are Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India, with each country reporting thousands dead.
In Thailand, where many British tourists were holidaying, officials said more than 2,000 people have been killed by the tsunami. In total, 15 Britons are confirmed dead – ten in Thailand, three in Sri Lanka and two in the Maldives. Some 10,000 British tourists are thought to be in the region.
The disaster was caused by tectonic plates shifting six miles under the sea off the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Sunday, triggering a huge tsunami tidal wave which crashed on to beaches, leaving devastation behind it.
The 20-foot-high waves swept away ferries and fishermen, cars and cottages, sunbathers and holiday divers. Dramatic footage filmed by a tourist on a balcony showed waves crashing into a hotel, flooding over a swimming pool and the lower floors.
Millions of people have been left homeless and many thousands are missing following the quake, which registered 9 on the Richter scale. The US Geological Survey said were at least six powerful aftershocks.
Signs of carnage in the disaster area were everywhere today. Dozens of bodies still clad in swimming trunks lined beaches in Thailand.
Villagers in Indonesia picked through destroyed homes amid the smell of rotting corpses, lacking any dry ground to bury the dead. Helicopters in India rushed medicine to stricken areas, while warships in Thailand steamed to island resorts to rescue survivors.
About 200 people were evacuated from devastated Phi Phi island, one of Thailand’s most popular destinations for Westerners. Jimmy Gorman, 30, from Manchester, said he saw 15 bodies on the island, including up to five children and a pregnant woman. “Disaster. Flattened everything,” Mr Gorman said. “There’s nothing left of it.” Foreign Office staff said embassy officials throughout south-east Asia were on hand to offer assistance and an emergency telephone number has been set up on 0207 008 0000.
The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said everything was being done to give assistance but efforts were being disrupted by communications problems. Mr Straw told BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme: “We have had a number of deaths of British nationals reported to our embassies and high commissions but they have not yet been confirmed. The numbers will be higher.
“As well as that there are obviously quite a number injured. In Phuket there are 69 British people who have been counted as injured by David Fall, our ambassador in Thailand, and his staff – they have been literally going round the hospitals.
A huge international emergency aid effort was underway, with the EU having pledged an initial £2.1m. Pope John Paul II led appeals for aid for victims and the US president, George Bush, expressed his condolences over the “terrible loss of life and suffering”.
As well as the EU, the US, Japan, China and Russia were among the countries sending aid and teams of experts to the region.
The UK’s international development secretary, Hilary Benn, said the government had already given £400,000 through the EU to the first Red Cross appeal to help survivors, and was providing about £50,000 to the World Health Organisation to prevent outbreaks of disease.
Jasmine Whitbread, international director of the aid group Oxfam, warned that without swift action, more people could die. “The flood waters will have contaminated drinking water and food will be scarce,” she said. The International Red Cross – which already has staff in all the affected countries – was concerned about the possible spread of waterborne diseases in the disaster area.
Emergency plans have been launched by UK tour operators to bring visitors home and transfer those in the affected areas to safer havens. Bedraggled British tourists, some with borrowed clothes, arrived back at UK airports today speaking of their ordeal. Some described how their hotels were flooded and they had lost everything they had with them; one told Sky News: “Lots of other people were not so lucky.”
Meanwhile, a row was ongoing after scientists said the death toll would have been reduced if the Indian Ocean had a network warning system for earthquakes similar to the one along Pacific Rim nations in North America, Asia and South America.
Thailand’s prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, refused to answer reporters’ questions about tsunami alerts.
- No let-up for Sri Lanka’s struggling bats (news.smh.com.au)