On Friday a huge earthquake rocked hundreds of kilometres of ground in Japan. Even in a country used to such events, this quake was a shock. The Japanese have their own measure of quake intensity, where one is the lowest and seven is the highest; Friday’s measured seven on this scale and 8.9 on the internationally used Richter scale. It was the biggest quake ever to be recorded in Japan.
Luckily – if anything can be lucky in such situations – Japan’s infrastructure is built to withstand earthquakes and only relatively minor damage was inflicted. However, as the earth stopped shaking a new disaster took shape as a tsunami warning was issued for the entire Pacific coast line, from Chile to the US and across the ocean to Japan and other parts of Asia.
The tsunami struck an hour after the original quake and was, by this time, a thirty foot high rolling mass of water. It crashed into the north eastern coastline of Japan, demolishing towns and destroying everything else in its wake. There were reports of fires breaking out as the vast mass of water began to recede, dragging with it homes and lorries as if they were toys.
As things start to steady and aftershocks decrease in magnitude a new problem becomes apparent. Many of Japan’s nuclear power stations have become unstable because of the tsunami and are beginning to pose a threat to nearby people. I can’t really tell you what is happening here, because no one seems to know, which is quite worrying
In fact, any time you hear the word earthquake, followed by tsunami, and then by nuclear meltdown, it is quite worrying – to say the least. Combine this with not knowing what is actually going on in respect to the latter, it is surprising that people are not running around like headless chickens. They’re not. One of the most amazing things about this whole disaster is how calm the Japanese seem to be. They have seen earthquakes like this before, such as the Kobi quake of 1993, and training has been implimented well. Video footage shows offices workers climbing under desks or leaving rocking buildings with little outwardly visible panic. You can prepare for earthquakes, but tsunamis are another matter.
Now rescue teams from all over the world are arriving in the region. Planes carrying emergency survival kits have been flown out. Shock is slowly being converted into action as the outside world watches on in horror. It is at times like this that the world unites.