An unspeakable disaster in Japan has led to enormous suffering. Ann and I have the people there in our thoughts and prayers. ~Mitt Romney
As you know by now, a massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck Japan today. 8,000 times stronger than the quake that devastated Christchurch, New Zealand last month, it is the 5th largest earthquake recorded in the world since 1900. Hardest hit was the northern coastal city of Sendai, Japan. Reports of devastation and deaths in the hundreds have been reported. 300 bodies have been found on the shore in Sendai and 500 are reported missing. A ferry boat with passengers and a train loaded with passengers are also missing. Obviously, the death toll is expected to rise as the situation remains very fluid.
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has formally requested help from the United States. President Obama assured him of our assistance and stated that initial aid will most likely be in the form of clean-up.
“The energy radiated by this quake is nearly equal to one month’s worth of energy consumption in the United States,” U.S. Geological Survey Scientist Brian Atwater
MRC extends sincere condolences to all adversely affected by the quake and especially to those in Japan who lost loved ones today.
UPDATE - The Kyodo News agency is reporting that more than 1000 people have probably died in the massive quake and tsunami disaster that devastated large parts of northern Japan’s Pacific coast today.
UPDATE 2 - 12:18 PM PST: Eyewitnesses are reporting that a dam has burst in northern Sendai; consequently, neighborhoods have been washed away. As far as U.S. aid, the United States already has one aircraft carrier stationed in Japan – USS George Washington, which is based at Yokosuka. (So far, none of our 38,000 troops stationed in Japan have been injured, thank goodness.) Seven other ships are now making their way to Japan – stopping at ports along the way to pick up needed supplies. Among them is super carrier USS Ronald Reagan, which was enroute to South Korea for exercises, and has now been redirected to Japan. The USS Ronald Reagan has air cargo lift capacity and full medical facilities on board.
UPDATE 3 12:01 AM PST (3/12/1): BREAKING NEWS regarding a nuclear facility in Japan that had lost its capacity to cool its reactor: Nuclear Plant Meltdown Fears
An explosion has reportedly been heard and plumes of white smoke seen at an earthquake-hit nuclear plant in Japan – amid fears of a possible meltdown. The report from a Japanese news agency comes after emergencies were declared at two nuclear power stations in Fukushima, 150 miles (240km) north of capital Tokyo, due to cooling problems. Several workers have reportedly been injured.
Radioactive steam has been released to reduce rising pressure in the plants and the Japanese prime minister has ordered thousands of people living within six miles to leave the area.
Reports are that the walls and roof of a facility at Fukushima Plant #1 have been destroyed. It is unclear at this time if this structure was a containment building for the reactor. Fears that a nuclear meltdown has occurred are growing. A second nuclear facility is being closely watched.
UPDATE 4 1:43 AM PST (3/12/11): The Japanese government has confirmed that a radiation leak has occurred at Fukushima Plant #1. Anyone within 12 miles of the site is being evacuated.
Three trains loaded with passengers are now reported missing. (Japanese railways are more often constructed on flat lands which happen to be on the coast – sea level – rather than through the mountains.) Offers to help with search and rescue efforts have been extended by 50 countries.
UPDATE 5 10:38 AM PST (3/12/11): RED ALERTS have been issued for three of the four reactors at Fukushima. Specialist teams working around the clock to avert nuclear meltdown; sea water is being poured on reactors to aid in cooling. Aftershocks in the area are disrupting work. Three workers at the plant stricken with radiation sickness; 190 local residents have also been affected. Officials distributing iodine tablets to residents to help with symptoms. Instructive animation being aired on TV to inform residents of what to do in the event they are exposed to radiation.
*Note -30% of Japan’s electricity is produced by 55 nuclear power units in 17 plants. The earthquake has caused 11 units to be shut down. Japan has asked oil-rich Russia to help as the need for fossil fuels increases. (With more oil going to Japan, predictions are that gasoline prices will increase.)
9500 people are reported missing in a small fishing and tourist town – Minamisanriku, in Miyagi Prefecture (northern Japan). (Prefecture means the same as ‘state’ in the United States but on a smaller scale.)
International response to the disaster is bolstering spirits; So. Korean dog teams now in the area. Social networking, i.e. Facebook, Google Person Finder, and Twitter playing a vital role in locating loved ones.
Food and fuel shortages are a growing concern; reports of hoarding.
Preliminary estimates for rebuilding – $15 billion.
Re U.S. aid – Super carrier USS Ronald Reagan should arrive today in Japan. U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa are preparing to arrive in mainland Japan and will bring supplies – food, cots, etc.
Stars and Stripes report (3/11/12):
The USS Tortuga embarked landing craft units and departed Sasebo Friday evening, he added. The ship is headed toward Pohang, South Korea, where it will pick up MH-53 heavy lift helicopters.
“We have directed most helicopter capable ships to be ready to sail within 24 hours,” Davis said.
The flagship USS Blue Ridge, which arrived in Singapore this morning, is loading a disaster relief kit and preparing to depart for Japan on Saturday morning.The Sasebo-based USS Essex, embarked with the Okinawa-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, was also preparing to return to Japan Saturday morning after arriving in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Friday morning.[...] Additionally, the USS Harpers Ferry and USS Germantown are heading for Japan.
“A number of the exercises we conduct in this region are specifically designed as humanitarian-type relief missions,” Lapan said. “Unfortunately we’ve had to do this several times in different areas in the Pacific.”
Well-known Fairfax County and Fire Rescue from Virginia will arrive tomorrow at the Misawa Air Force Base (located at Aomori Prefecture in the Tōhoku region of Japan) to aid in search and rescue. They are an elite, uniquely trained, self-contained team with a medical component, canines and handlers, structural engineers, listening devices, jack-hammers, and inflatable boats, etc. They will pick up an additional rescue team in Los Angeles before heading to Japan tomorrow.UPDATE 6 2:20 AM PDT (3/13/11): The earthquake has been upgraded to 9.0. Scientists say the force of the quake has caused the nation of Japan to shift 8 feet.
1.4 million people have been without water since the quake hit. 2.5 million are without electricity.
Japan’s government is warning of the possibility of a second blast at Fukushima Plant #1. They are currently working to cool down 4 reactors. News is that a partial melt-down has occured with the first reactor, but it cannot be ascertained because they can’t get into the reactor housing. Tokyo Electric Power warns that the radiation level has risen above the safety level. 170,000 people have been evacuated from the area.
Warnings have been issued that another quake measuring as high as 7.0 could occur within the next 3 days. Estimates this morning are that the death toll could reach as high as 10,000.
American military rescue work has been dubbed ‘Operation Tomodachi’ meaning friendship. The name was chosen by the Japanese. Helicopters from the USS Ronald Reagan have already conducted 20 missions delivering food and supplies to 3 different towns. They will also transport Japanese forces to stricken areas.
VIDEO – March 12, 2011
Read more about rescue operations here.
New video of the force of the tsunami when it struck the fishing port of Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, Japan:
UPDATE 6 9:54 PM PDT (3/13/11): Japan Central Bank injects $184 billion as stocks plunge
Japan’s central bank is injecting a record 15 trillion yen ($183.8 billion) into money markets, while the Tokyo stock market nosedived Monday on the first business day since an earthquake and tsunami devastated the country’s northeast and raised dire worries about the economy.
The Bank of Japan moved quickly to try to keep financial markets stable. By flooding the banking system with cash, it hopes banks will continue lending money and meet the likely surge in demand for post-earthquake funds. Central bankers were gathered Monday for a one-day policy board meeting.
Preliminary estimates put repair costs from the earthquake and tsunami in the tens of billions of dollars—a huge blow for an economy that lost its place as the world’s No. 2 to China last year, and was already in a fragile state.
The nation’s big-three automakers, meanwhile, said they would halt all production in Japan due to widespread damage to both suppliers and transport networks in the region.
“The impact on Japan’s economy will be devastating,” said Sheila Smith, senior fellow for Japan Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York-based think tank. “The long-term economic blow to a country already struggling to lower its budget deficit … will be significant.”
(my emphasis) Read more here.
UPDATE 7 4:45 AM PDT (3/14/11): Nuclear fuel rods fully exposed at Japan reactor – JijiUPDATE 8 7: 37 PM PDT (3/14/11): The Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan has confirmed that an explosion has occurred in Fukushima Plant #2 and nuclear rods were partially exposed for two and a half hours. Residents are warned that radiation in the air has reached levels that can now impact human health. Residents are cautioned to remain indoors. A new fire has also occurred in Reactor #4 – which heightens concern for a nuclear nightmare.
Some 2,000 bodies have washed up on the shores of Ishinomaki and Minamisanrik; local authorities are struggling to deal with the number of corpses. 450,000 are homeless; food, water, and fuel are scarce. Nighttime temperatures are bitterly cold and snow is expected tomorrow.Meanwhile, rescue efforts continue. The USS Ronald Reagan moved to a new position to further itself from the effects of radioactivity. Rescue work is hampered by ongoing after-shocks and 10 to 15 feet of debris in many locations.
UPDATE 8 7:30 PM PDT (3/15/11): ALL WORKERS HAVE SUSPENDED OPERATIONS at an unidentified nuclear power plant in Fukushima. Due to lack of power and generator failure caused by the tsunami (generators were anchored at ground level), cooling the reactors has been done manually – with sea water. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano issued a statement saying work on dousing reactors with water stopped when radiation levels rose quickly. Government officials are tight-lipped with details…
Meanwhile, sales of potassium iodide pills (anti-radiation pills that protect the thyroid gland) have flown off suppliers’ shelves in western coastal states in the USA.
Japan’s woes have prompted Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez to halt nuclear plans.
UPDATE 9 11:00 AM PDT (3/16/11): The United States Pentagon has ordered all U.S. military helping with humanitarian rescues/operations in Japan to stay 50 miles away from the nuclear power plants in Fukushima – unless special authorization has been granted.
It’s currently snowing heavily in northeastern Japan. 450,000 residents are in shelters (which are quickly running out of food and water) and many are living outside in the elements.
In an extremely rare occurrence reserved for times of extreme crisis or war, Japan’s revered Emperor Akihito spoke somberly on national TV today to offer hope and encouragement:
Meanwhile, the heroes continuing to work at the Fukushima power plant are not afraid to die.
UPDATE 10 11:30 PDT (3/17/11): The U.S. State Dept is helping employees and other government workers and dependents leave three cities in northeastern Japan. One charter flight departed yesterday to Taipei (with only 100 on board) and two additional flights will be offered tomorrow.
The Dept of Defense is also offering commercial or chartered flights available tomorrow to aid in evacuations. The DOD has also sent additional shipments of potassium iodide pills to Japan.
The U.S. military has delivered 40 tons of humanitarian relief thus far. President Obama will speak on the continuing situation from the W.H. Rose Garden today at 3:30 PM EST.
UPDATE 11 10:30 AM PDT (3/18/11): “The boss of the company behind the devastated Japanese nuclear reactor today broke down in tears – as his country finally acknowledged the radiation spewing from the over-heating reactors and fuel rods was enough to kill some citizens.” Read more here.
► Jayde Wyatt