As most of you are already aware, Japan suffered a major earthquake last Friday (3/11), last reported to be 9.0 magnitude, making it the largest ever recorded in the country’s history. The epicenter struck off the coast of Sendai in the Miyagi prefecture and caused a catastrophic tsunami which hit the eastern coastline. The quake and its aftershocks caused heavy damage, but was incomparable to the destruction of the waves. Sendai was hit by a massive 10-meter tsunami traveling at jet speeds and many other cities such as Tokyo suffered 4-meter high waves as well. Everything in the tsunami’s path was swept away, including entire towns, and many people were stranded by the water. The official number of dead is 2,000, but the amount of people unaccounted for is in the tens of thousands. Most troubling at the moment is the damage to the nuclear power plants located in the disaster areas. The cooling systems of four nuclear plants failed and officials declared a state of emergency. Workers attempted to cool the reactors by pouring seawater, but the resulting hydrogen reacted with the oxygen and caused several explosions. Luckily, the reactors cores remained intact and full meltdowns were avoided for now, although radiation levels are still many times above normal.
I commend the Japanese people for being able to deal with this severe disaster and nuclear crisis calmly. Their system has been worked to the maximum efficiency; television warnings were sent out one minute before the earthquake hit Tokyo and tsunami warnings were issued immediately, saving lives. The earthquake building codes and tsunami protection systems are among the best in the world, but unfortunately the sheer scale of this crisis caused unbelievable amounts of destruction. I cannot imagine the casualties that would have occurred if a less-developed country had been hit by such a disaster in population dense areas. My heart goes out to those suffering through this tragedy and to those with missing friends and family members. This has been described as “the biggest disaster the country’s experienced since World War II”. Images of the devastation are surreal, but emergency response teams have done an impeccable job with evacuations and rescue operations.
The tsunami also affected several other areas in the Pacific, causing damage in places as far away as Hawaii and California. Taiwan was not affected severely, and my friends and family there are fine, which is a relief. I hope the best for Japan and everyone going through this disaster. Many people are still stranded and missing, with dwindling supplies of food and a lack of electricity and heat. So many bodies are turning up that there is also a shortage of body bags and cremation services are overwhelmed. If you would like to help, the American Red Cross and various relief organizations are accepting donations. Crunchyroll is matching donations as well, up to $5000.
Updates and details on the situation can be found on BBC.