Posts Tagged ‘earthquake’

Crisis Continued


The Zombie Apocalypse would be more fun. At least that’s what computer games tell me!

So, we’re preparing for more earthquake craziness by getting together some canned food, bottled water, and putting it all into a bag with some clothes in case we have to dash out of the house in a hurry. That’s what we were doing over the weekend, but now we’re less worried about another earthquake and more worried about impending nuclear disaster.

It’s been a crazy up-and-down state of near panic for us. Information is difficult to come by and what we find out often seems to conflict other sources. For instance, when we first found of about the nuclear power plant it was through the Japanese media, and it SEEMED as if we didn’t have to worry about a meltdown for the time being, and only the poor people still within the 30 km evac radius had to be scared.

However even the English media sources don’t seem to be discussing the worst case scenario. Now what I mean by that is not “how the reactor will melt down”, but what this will mean for the populace. Looking into the Chernobyl disaster, 30 km is just not enough distance, and even where we are (about 200 km from the site) it seems as if we are still at risk of enough poisoning that it can cause thyroid cancer.

I called the Australian embassy in Tokyo last night, to find out what I could. They told me that according to their current information the radiation was adequately contained and there’s no official policy regarding getting Australians who are currently in Japan back home.

Feeling generally pretty weird about having to go into work today, business as usual, Ingrid and I got to the train station to discover that the trains weren’t running. Like, ALL of them, excepting the shinkansen. Hundreds of Japanese workers and students milling around with no place to go. We were advised to go home by our area managers and that is why I am typing away at home right now. There seems to be no information available as to why the trains aren’t running, which is worrying, but that may just be because we are foreigners and information is much harder for us to get, let alone understand. Or it may be because the power plant is about to melt down. Who can say!

I’m pretty pissed off about the lack of information being provided to citizens regarding an uncontained melt down scenario and the media in general, and I figure it’s because of wanting to reduce panic. There was a lukewarm 2 minute segment on one of the morning shows today about some advice regarding avoiding radiation poisoning. Seriously, is that it? If you’re saying anything about it at all it means it’s a distinct possibility. If it’s a distinct possibility then shouldn’t you be devoting more time to educating the citizens to ensure their health and safety, and not on endless repeated footage of the earthquake and touching human stories regarding survival and loss?

Ingrid and I are at the stage of seriously considering returning home. This is pretty complicated as it would mean breaking our contracts, and organising an intercontinental move on such short notice is going to be a massive pain in the arse. Still, would you prefer cancer? Tough choice!


The day after

Life has pretty much gone back to normal here in Omiya. Disturbingly so, actually. But walking around, Alan and I did notice a few interesting things…

Some guy fixing roof damage from the quake.

A lot of North-bound train lines are, obviously, not running.

Starbucks is closed!! WAT!! Lumine was closed too, and a few other evergreens around Omiya. ショック!

Looks like we're not the only ones who went straight to the supermarket to stock up on supplies. This is the cup ramen section.

This is the bread section. I guess delivery services were interrupted.

All of the empty spots used to have bottled water.

Apart from these things, life is going on pretty normally here. But Alan and I are feeling pretty nervous about the state of the nuclear power plants in Fukushima. We’re probably about 200 km away, but it’s still scary. Nuclear meltdowns aren’t nearly as funny as they seem in The Simpsons.

8.9 Earthquake

Today Japan was hit by the biggest earthquake it’s ever had. And I was there! (Thankfully not too close to the epicentre.) I was in Saitama, which is a prefecture just north of Tokyo. The earthquake we felt was magnitude 5.

I was teaching a class at the time. It started very small (small earthquakes are fairly common), but it got scary pretty quickly and we all dived under our desks. Some of the kids were scared, but actually a lot of them were laughing too, like it was a ride. Several of them shouted “New Zealand!” And several of them seemed to think the best way to ride out the quake was to comfort me! (I guess I must have looked pretty scared.)

After the tremors stopped, we evacuated into the schoolyard. I’ve seen them drill for this before and, as expected, they were very efficient. The principal told everyone that classes would resume for 6th period, but club activities were cancelled. He was starting to send students back inside and I headed in too since I was freezing (I’d had to rush out in only a cardigan and the outside temperature was about 6 degrees C).

And that was when the aftershock hit. It wasn’t as big, but this time I was stuck on my own so I was a bit panicky. But it didn’t last as long, and then it was straight back to the evacuation area for everyone. This time the principal just told everyone to go home.

In the meantime, our area had lost electricity. That was not a huge problem at school, although it meant we couldn’t easily find out what was going on since we couldn’t turn on a TV or a computer. But the worst effect of having no electricity was having no traffic lights. The streets were dangerous, but we had to send the kids home, so several teachers went out and directed traffic at the major intersections until the police turned up (an hour later).

Mobile services were down too (they’re still down at the time of writing), so no-one could call friends or family to check if they were OK.

And of course the trains had stopped. Most teachers and students live withing walking distance so they were fine, but I live further away. It takes me about 45 minutes by train to get home – too far to walk easily. Thankfully another teacher was driving in that direction and offered me a lift. She was pretty worried because her two daughters were stranded in Tokyo, where they go to school, and she had no way to contact them.

On the way home, we saw several fire trucks, ambulances and police cars. We also saw a fire in the distance. And we could still feel significant tremors when the car stopped. Six hours later, we’re still getting decent-sized tremors every 20 minutes or so.

She dropped me off at Omiya station, near my home. The station was packed, with lots of people sitting on the ground, preparing for a long wait. And since landline phone services were working, there were enormous queues for the public phones.

Now we’re just watching the TV to see what kind of damage the tsunami did, and watching the death toll climb. Surreal.

This is what the queue is like for the public phone when no-one can get home and no-one can use their mobile.