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Rumours 18 March, 2011

Filed under: news — johnraff @ 2:55 pm
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After major disasters communication breaks down and rumours can get out of control. After the Tokyo earthquake of 1923 Koreans were accused of poisoning wells and many were killed. In spite of our modern telecommunications, some of the same can still be seen after Japan’s 3/11. In Tokyo there has been a wave of panic buying – instant noodles and the like disappearing from shops, and long queues to buy petrol. Fuel shortage in fact has been a major problem in getting relief to survivours of the earthquake.

They’re having a really hard time. Many people had taken refuge in isolated places, with roads destroyed and no fuel for trucks, so had to get through the recent cold wave without enough food, water, heating oil, blankets, medicine… Supplies are only now, a week later, starting to get through to some extent. Many are elderly and already some have died.

Meanwhile the nuclear reactor at Fukushima is an ongoing story. Today they’ve been spraying it with water, which might help cool things down, and are working on getting power back to the coolant pumps. Maybe we can avoid a general meltdown. Fingers crossed. American, Korean and British authorities have apparently told their nationals to evacuate to 80Km from the Nuclear site and many Japanese are trying to do the same. Those who can are said to be moving from Tokyo to cities further west. Some resident foreigners are already leaving the country – apparently the price of an air ticket to Beijing has gone up from the usual ¥30,000 or so to around ¥200,000!

Rumours abound, carried by email, twitter, all the modern tools of communication which are supposed to give people ready access to the truth. Traditional broadcasters are urging people to get their information from radio and TV, and maybe they have a point here.

Of course the worst rumour mill of all is the stock market – everyone wants to be one step ahead so buying and selling turns on a whisper. Yesterday, on the basis that Japanese companies would be wanting to repatriate some of their foreign holdings for reconstruction at home, the yen shot up to a ridiculous rate of 76 to the dollar at one point. It’s back at 82 now, but Tokyo stocks are well down on a week ago…


Earthquake! 12 March, 2011

Filed under: incidents,news — johnraff @ 3:01 pm
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That was a big one.

The biggest since they started keeping records some time in the Meiji era in fact. The first we knew of it was when the radio made that beeping noise that means an earhquake warning. They brought this system in a couple of years ago – it picks up the P-waves that arrive first and gives you a few seconds to get under a desk before the slower, but more destructive, S-waves arrive. However they said it was coming to the north of the country so here in Nagoya we didn’t worry too much. Maybe half a minute later the people in the Tokyo studio started to talk about being severely shaken, you could hear shouting in the background, and the sound was getting a bit fractured. Still nothing in Nagoya, though.

It took about a minute for the waves to reach us – long, slow, swaying too and fro, like being on the deck of a ship. A feeling that makes you doubt your senses – solid ground is not supposed to move like that. I don’t usually get seasick, but after what seemed like ten minutes (probably less) of this both T and I were feeling a bit queasy with landsickness. Eventually it came to an end. “Is it over?” You can’t be really sure if the ground has stopped moving or not. Thankfully, no damage had been done to our 2-storey building, or anywhere in Nagoya. Those slow waves can be very destructive to high-rise buildings apparently, but in this case most of the damage was done by the tsunamis which followed shortly after, in the Tohoku region mostly.

There have been several smaller earthquakes lately and I think people now take tsunami warnings somewhat seriously, so most of the inhabitants of the towns and villages that got wiped out had managed to get away to higher ground. At the moment they’re talking about maybe 1,500 people killed or missing which, while high of course, still seems small in the context of the devastation which took place. (Have a look round YouTube.) Tsunamis are still being recorded now, a day later, and the latest news is of molten caesium leaking from a nuclear power station…

Thankfully, everything’s OK here, but they have a lot of clearing up to do in the north of the country.


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