I’ll add more to this post in due course, but I hope this information will be useful for you now. Most Japanese people are trained in schools how to respond during earthquakes. Despite the disaster preparedness and rehearsals even in most companies, there were still some bad decisions made on the 11th March 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami and nuclear disaster.
In light of this, information is still important. The first thing I’d like to share is this link. It’s the Real-time Earthquake Monitor. It’s a constantly updating website made especially for smartphone screens. It shows where there is movement in the earth, and importantly shows the radiating spread of quake ripples and their strength. Here’s the link: http://realtime-earthquake-monitor.appspot.com
Earlier, the BBC News website reported that there was a fireworks explosion, injuring and seriously injuring about 50 people including children in Kyoto, and of which caused the cancellation of a fireworks display (BBC News). It was later revealed that it was a food stall or similar (like shown below) was using a generator and possibly was refilling the generator fuel tank when some fuel splashed onto the generator itself, causing a fire and explosion of the fuel tank. Then later a second fuel tank exploded, of which was recorded and released on the internet. Stalls like these below are typical scenes seen all over Japan for all festival and cultural events. See the Japan Today article for more information. These images, and others like them are available at my portfolio and my agent’s website.
Both images are typical stalls found at all Japanese festivals. The lights are typically powered by fuel generators.
My story isn’t as harrowing as those up north, but it is my story. I’m in Nagoya, halfway between Tokyo and Osaka, well south of the Tohoku earthquake.
11th March 2011 was a very cold, but sunny day. At about 2.47pm I felt my building beginning to sway, and then it got violent.For the first ten minutes the NHK broadcast was only the automatic computer system announcing the basic facts in Japanese, English, Portuguese, Mandarin, and may a couple of other languages. Then later we saw confused, hurriedly arranged news anchors starting to pass on info to us, including the first images of the tsunami sweeping across low-lying homes and fields. The earthquake swayed and shook us at various intensities for the next five hours. During that time, I wondered if I should evacuate my building or not, but I stayed glued in front of my TV. I remained standing behind my couch with heavy winter jacket on ready to run, eyes on the TV updates, and all I had was my wallet, keys, and mobile phone in hand. Now, I have a backpack with emergency survival kit, and I’d ensure I have my camera. Looking outside, I saw that water in the nearby canals was slopping side to side, like coffee in my mug as I walk from the kitchen. I slept with my clothes next to my bed for a few days, and always a good pair of shoes ready at the door.
In the following days and weeks, I wondered if the nearby fault, the Nankai fault, might also be triggered. The Nankai fault was the one that was expected to be the next big quake, affecting mainly Nagoya and the central region, and the northernmost limit of affect is Tokyo. There apparently is over 80% chance of it slipping, creating a magnitude 8 earthquake, resulting in a tsunami expected to be over 10 meters in some areas, which will overwhelm many coastal storm surge barriers. It is expected that 10,000’s in my region would die from what is called the Great Nankai Earthquake. Consequently, it was because there seemed the very real possibility that the Nankai earthquake could be triggered, is why I remained in my region and didn’t head north to visually record the devastation. Apparently, experts feel that the Nankai trough is in very real danger or slipping, even more so now the shape of the earth has changed. I also learnt in the months afterwards that the whole earth had sped up, and the earth’s angle of lean changed ever so slightly, as a result of the Tohoku earthquake (Wikipedia).
The Nexco owns and maintains many of the toll ways or expressways in the central Japan region known variously as ‘Chubu’ (midlands) or the ‘Tokai Region’, including the highway and tunnel where today’s accident occurred (ABC, BBC, Japan Today). The Nexco gets its income from toll gates, like the ones shown below. Recently, highway companies have been criticised for not properly designing highway barriers linking between the road barrier and bridges, an apparent critical point where a bus crashed a couple of months ago. The tunnel collapse today is indeed significant because the collapse of the ceiling panels is an accident that should have been considered possible, and inspections in September confirmed the structural integrity of the one-tonne ceiling panels.
As at time of writing, NHK reports that a man had been found alive in his truck, and they are now looking to find a way to free him. ‘Several’ charred bodies are still in the tunnel, and news footage showed that it had snowed at some point today. It would seem that the reason for the collapse may relate to the shape or weight distribution within the mountain had changed, thus changing the shape of the tunnel, allowing for freely-suspended concrete ceiling panels to fall, perhaps the cold and contraction of the panels contributed.
Arriving at the toll collection gates on a Japanese Expressway near Nagoya, Japan
Officially & internationally called “Typhoon Jelawat”, but in Japan it’s known as “Typhoon number 17”.
My area is expecting about 500mm of rain tonight. The typhoon centre is expected to be within a few kilometres of my area at about the same time as high tide, 6pm local time, creating a risk of sea water washing over storm surge barriers (shown below). Already an Australian tourist in Osaka was killed when a tree was blown over as she was out walking. If you’re in Japan, please stay indoors and keep an eye on TV news reports for your area. Also keep up to date with the Japan Meteorological Agency website for more information, and watch for Twitter hashtags: #typhoon17 and #typhoonjelawat.
There is a heavy rain alert issued by the Japanese Bureau of Meteorology. Already, urban area flooding has occurred, landslides in Gifu and in the south west of Japan. So far, two people are missing in landslide areas in the south. There is a risk of flood barriers collapsing, and threats of inundation. Many residents in low lying areas have been told to be prepared to evacuate at short notice. Some community shelters have already taken in elderly residents, and others who have difficulties moving. My area does have the threat of the local canals (pictured below) over flowing, and fire engines can sometimes be heard with sirens on going around my neighbourhood. Currently, the issued warnings say thunderstorms and dense fog. The full collection of photos in the Disaster gallery.
My New Year’s routine is to go to a local Buddhist Temple to see in the New Year and take my turn to toll the bell, and then to a Shrine to eat warm oudon and drink my first (and usually only) sake for the year, and in the morning to see the first sunrise. I went out really early in the morning on the 1st January 2011 to get sunrise pictures. It’s not my preferred subject, but it’s special to Japanese people, to send New Years cards that feature a sunrise, especially the first one of the year. We send Christmas cards, they send New Year cards to their friends. That day I took a friend out with me to take him to see one of my favourite sunrise pictures ever, which I happen to have taken. Unfortunately, we were about 500m too far to the left, and so we missed getting the sun rising through a local amusement park (see link for that picture). As a consequence and with some irony, I just photographed on anyway, shooting the rising sun with a smoke stack / cooling tower in view.
Every time I’m out there alone I wonder what the year will bring, what will happen in the coming year. Will it be exciting or uneventful? On the 1st January 2011, the first day of the new year there was hope, optimism, potential for everyone in Japan. Below is a video of the photographs I took to commemorate the day of a new and potentially exciting year, a year that many would rather forget, but will always be remembered. There was too much irony for me to ignore these photographs.
It’s the last 25 minutes of September for 2011, and the only thing on my mind is radiation in Japan. The last week on the newly opened Google+ has been amazing. On it I’ve come across people who’ve posted bilingually articles about the on-going radiation crisis happening in Tohoku (special thanks to sai, ありがとう). Here in central Japan the nuclear accident feels like a distant memory, something that happened far, far away, and whilst concerning, isn’t going to drive us nuts. The opposite should be true. Articles posted by people on Google+ suggest that the Japanese government is doing everything possible to avoid hysteria in Tokyo and other places (ABC). The British nuclear expert, Professor Christopher Busby, describes the Fukushima situation as, “…probably the greatest catastrophe in the whole of human history” (ZDF). Within weeks of the crisis beginning, mustard spinach grown in Tokyo was found to have been contaminated with radiation (Apr 2011). There are areas outside of the 30km exclusion zone that have been contaminated with plutonium (NHK 29 Sep 2011). Apparently, after Chernobyl, the north sea saw a radiation contamination peak at 1,000 Becquerels, but off Fukushima was over 100,000 (NYTimes). In addition to this, at the height of the crisis, a lot of people were ready and waiting to be told to take iodine pills to protect us against radiated iodine exposure. These pills saturate the thyroid so that any ingestion of radioactive iodine cannot accumulate and is immediately flushed out of the body. However, despite the advice, the national government never ordered the administration of these (Wall Street Journal), which also would have triggered embassies in Tokyo to distribute them to their nationals, too. Furthermore, local governments did not have the nous to act in the absence of direction. The oceans have been massively contaminated (ScienceBlogs.Com), affecting fish, a staple of Japanese diet.
Finally, still in Tokyo, there were elevated levels of radiation in Tokyo itself as late as July. The map below comes from SafeCast.Org. Also see the government map dated 29th Sept, 2011 (METI). The government announced the thirty kilometre exclusion zone, and declared everywhere else safe. The map plainly shows that this is not the case. Foreign governments have advised their residents within 80kms to move away, and this seems to be why. The final morbid fact I’ll pass on is that there are residents who believe they can return to their homes within a year or so, and there are politicians who say they are working towards that goal. The reality is that even after 30 years, there are no plans to re-populate the Chernobyl township.
Fukushima and Tokyo affected by the nuclear crisis.
Typhoon Roke has finally made it here. It will pass directly over Nagoya and then Tokyo. The wind doesn’t seem as strong as the previous typhoon, Talas. Rain associated with Roke has caused flooding in Nagoya where authorities issued evacuation orders for 1 million of the 2 million residents of Nagoya. It sounds desperate, but it is not. Most of the residents Nagoya live in multi-story condominium buildings or multi-story apartments. Only householders near the Shonai River are indeed flooded. Affected areas are mainly Moriyama and Tempaku. NHK, the national broadcaster, showed pictures of city residents taking refuge in emergency shelters last night, ahead of additional or continued flooding, and ahead of the approach of the typhoon.
Yesterday many workers and students attending their first days of the new semester were stranded at train stations as underground services were flooded, or high risks due to the winds. The stranding of commuters was the probable cause of mobile phone services working only intermittently. Despite learning that stranded passengers in Tokyo was a huge problem after the March-eleven quake, Nagoya seemed unprepared.
Below are photos from Typhoon Talas. I’m not leaving my area until I’m sure that my home and neighbourhood is safe, then I might venture out. My area has a warning of high risk of storm surge causing inundation. My pictures, below, show the storm surge and tsunami protection, however, not all parts of the dyke is as strong and reinforced as those shown.
Typhoon Roke is still coming, and at the time of writing, the storm zone is still not over Nagoya (my city). Strangely, we’ve had a large amount of rain, but not a massive amount, but parts of Nagoya have been flooded. I would never have thought this, as the rain was not intense enough for long enough, consequently I never thought to even bother go around the town to take a look. 79,000 people in Nagoya have been told to evacuate, and they are apart of the 1.2 million having to move, too. Currently there is no wind, and the storm zone isn’t over Nagoya, yet. The rain is merely associated with the typhoon.
It appears that mobile phone services are operating in some areas intermittently, perhaps as many stranded commuters are calling home saying that their train services are closed or the underground stations flooded.
For the latest information see the Japan Weather Agency website. I’m afraid I don’t know of any other informational services in languages other than Japanese. Currently, it seems the worst of the storm should have past Nagoya by 6pm Wednesday (local time), but Tokyo would still be affected. Companies often stipulate that if there is a Gale Warming (red) then workers are not required to attend. Most companies are not concerned about the other warnings (including flood, rain, and risks of landslides).