Tag Archive for tsunami

My 11th March story

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 picture below is my commemorative art for the event. Please see the Nuclear Spring gallery for more, and the Nuclear Spring blog posts for details.

11th March Anniversary

In commemoration of the 11th March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, the homepage slide show gallery was changed to the Nuclear Spring gallery. The collection is so called because of reference to Nuclear Winter and the historic book called Silent Spring.

Nuclear Spring Collection – Images by Andrew Blyth

A poem of the first hope for 2011

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.

My best new year photos are on my agent’s website, Asian Photo Connection by Henry Westheim, and here is a search for “Japanese New Year“, and many of those photos (including the boats, dog, etc) were taken on 1st January, 2011.

Sunrise over the popular Nagashima Spa Land, 2009

Sunrises are often used on New Year cards in Japan

Typhoon Talas photos

Every time there was a typhoon in Taiwan, I always heard that there had been at least one idiot who went to the coast to watch the big waves, and that idiot got washed away and died.

This time, this idiot finally got interested in seeing what the waves look like near where I live. I live very close to Ise Bay, where the major cities of Nagoya, Yokkaichi and Toyota are located. I decided to take my bicycle as it gives me better access along the dyke, so I road my bicycle into the wind in very low gear (2-2 and sometimes 1-1). After 40 minutes of hard cycling I eventually got to the coast to see the bay. The waves were… small. About a foot high, but the wind was full gale force, and the rain stung my skin. There were gale force warnings and flood warnings for my area. I slowly road back home taking photos along the way, and rarely needing to pedal (the wind was strong enough to power me up to being faster than running speed). By the time I got home in my prefecture one person was already missing, 18 injured, some homes were evacuated, and landslides in areas near mountains became likely. Because the typhoon is moving so slowly, there will be so much rain falling over a protracted time and not draining, and so there will be disasters occurring.

Below is the start of a new collection of Disaster photos. The collection currently focuses on tsunami and storm surge dykes. It is modest, but one must start somewhere. If I were funded, I would be prepared to travel to better locations (further than I care to ride a bicycle).

Disasters – Images by Andrew Blyth

Propaganda Land

Even if this is true, it’s either too much of a coincidence or they’re too optimistic.

Last night on NHK it was announced that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the owners and operators of the troubled Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Power Plants, had on 7th March 2011 submitted their first ever revisions to tsunami estimates to the appropriate government office. The same office that has been publicly accused of failing to fulfil their oversight safety duties of nuclear power plants. TEPCO admits that the Fukushima plants were designed to withstand a 5.7m wave (tidal, storm surge, or tsunami), but last year a revision to this estimate suggested that they should prepare for a 10 meter wave, so they claim to have submitted this revision four days before the Tohuku earthquake and tsunami struck. Thus, it is possible that both the government and TEPCO had not neglected their duties, just unfortunate timing… very suspicious to me.

Secondly, a German documentary was aired in Japan, which was about how a German contractor is dismantling the Russian unwanted nuclear powered submarines leftover from the cold war. Interestingly, the company had no immediate plans on dismantling the some 300 nuclear reactors, instead pulling apart the submarines, cleaning off any radioactive material, and selling the metal to scrap. The reactors are being stored in a sarcophagus (their own hulls with some extra lining added), and will be left for 100 years to when it is hoped that the next generation of nuclear-reactor disposal experts will know what to do. The reactor cores will still be dangerous, but less dangerous. In contrast, the Japanese government and TEPCO seem confident that they can solve the Fukushima problem in only a few decades. It should also be pointed out that the reactors are far bigger than a submarine reactor core. They seem very optimistic.

Donations not from international contributors?

Tonight on Japan’s national broadcaster NHK it was reported that victims of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami would receive financial assistance from the Japan Red Cross. It was reported that the donations collected nationally by the Japan Red Cross would provide each victim with JPN¥350,000 (about USD$4,100 or GBP£2,500). Some people may focus on the amount saying, ‘that’s all?’ with sympathy for the victims, and perhaps there should be more exclamation in their voice than initially said.

The problem is that the report said that the Red Cross collected money nationally, that is, domestically in Japan. This ignores the huge international donations directly to Red Cross Japan via Google (including .com and .co.uk among others), it also ignores the donations made via the British Red Cross, the Australian Red Cross, other branches of Red Cross International, and via alternative charities. It is excellent that the survivors are getting financial assistance to survive and re-establish their lives, however, the international contribution has either been ignored or not counted (yet).

This could be regarded as an understandable omission, however, in the first week of the earthquake crisis there was never a single report of any sort of international response on the evening national news. Only because of the BBC website did I know that other countries were responding to the crisis. It would have been easy for the Japanese people to believe that they were alone in the crisis for at least a week. Though, a brief mention by the Japanese Prime Minister that he spoke to Barack Obama on the phone was mentioned during a press briefing that was aired live just once. Eventually, there was a short news story of the New Zealand contingent fresh from their own earthquake disaster, then a short story on some of the international contingents including a group of Israeli doctors, but several news stories of the US Army and US Navy’s support took the greater portion of the pie. If there is an Australian contingent here, I’m sure the Australians should feel a little ignored and unappreciated. Likewise any German, British or other countries contingents.

What’s the cause of this? I have lived in Taiwan and South Korea, and notice the differences. In Taiwan and SK, the news programmes and general media recognises the international community and contributions in the everyday lives of people in these countries. Hong Kong and Singapore news cannot survive without mentioning their neighbours. In contrast, Japanese media seem very ethno or ego-centric. For instance, their travel reporters only speak to people who speak Japanese (obviously sourced via the embassy) or use charactatured voice-overs. Such voice-overs deny the informant their own cultural identity. Business news programmes only really report on what Japanese companies are doing in Japan, and rarely what they are doing overseas. Very, very, very rarely is there a report of what Japanese competitors are doing. That is, I remember only one news story about how the South Korean government and companies have been investing in Asian countries, and how they are successfully out-competing Japanese interests.

It would be nice for the international community to know that their efforts in supplying support personnel and money are being recognised and appreciated within Japan.

See a photo of Japanese yen here at my Asia Photo Connection Portfolio.

Tohoku Earthquake Resources

I’ve added some resources I consider to important to the homepage. These have been essential for me on Friday and over these first few days. I hope they are useful for you too.

Nuclear Powerplant in danger in Japan

According to the Japanese national broadcaster, NHK, the Fukushima power plant of the Tokyo Power Company currently cannot cool one of its reactors following the 2.46pm Tohoku Earthquake today. According to Japanese law, residents within 3km radius of the plant have been ordered to evacuate their homes, and residents within 3-10km are to stay indoors. So far, no leakage or other problems have been reported with the facility. It is reported that the plant has been built to very high standards and to withstand strong earthquakes such as the one today.

At the same time, many people are stranded in Tokyo unable to return to their homes. JR trains have suspended their services (no announcement made on TV), leaving buses and taxis being the only alternatives. Due to the winter cold, many office workers who are not dressed for the occasion, will suffer. So far, there has been no concern for hypothermia expressed by Ward Office governments about the situation.

According to NHK, the tsunami that hit various parts of the Pacific side of Japan has swept many people away, leaving scores dead and missing, including 23 junior high school students who are unaccounted for. Many acres of farm land has also been inundated by seawater, fishing boats destroyed or tossed about, buildings destroyed, and many vacant cars swept out to sea. Also, due to the tsunami, over 1,000 people have been trapped in Sendai airport which is currently a virtual an island. Stranded people are reported to have food and water, but say it is very cold.