Friday, 11 March 2011

The Japanese earthquake and tsunami

I really feel for the lives that must have been lost or ruined in this afternoon's huge earthquake, at 8.8 the biggest since 1900. Now night has fallen, which will hamper rescue efforts, and it is snowing across the north of Japan. The aftershocks are still shaking the house every now and then and could continue for a month. They say there could even be another big one. I was upstairs teaching drawing, and we were disorientated like everyone else. When the ground shakes it is so unnatural that even natives who have grown up being trained what to do get confused. We got under the kitchen table as the house swayed, feeling sick, but as it continued we realised it would be better to get outside as there are open spaces here. All the stoves and the gas had to be switched off, and the doors opened in case they jammed.

The neighbours were all outside, but motorists continued to drive past as you don't notice the ground shaking in a car. Looking around at the mountains, it was inconceivable that all that enormous mass was shaking. We may as well be bacteria for all the effect we can have on the power of the earth. Eventually we went back in and watched the television and the unbelievable pictures of ships, whole houses, cars and wreckage being tossed around like toys in a bath by the tsunami.

Fortunately the local primary schools have only just been reinforced for earthquake, and my son is back home now, blanking out his fear with Pokomon on his DS. We are lucky, and it is good to be with family. On the television are burning gas facilities, collapsed and flooded houses, and people huddled in cold sports halls and community centres. Worse will be to come as the toll becomes known, and we find out how successful Japan's relatively thorough preparations have been, and which of the various attempts to make earthquake-proof buildings have worked.


  1. Glad to hear that you are all ok and that there are areas of japan that are not badly affected. Stay safe.

  2. Thanks Callie. The north east coast is most affected. The most worrying thing now is that the nuclear power station on the coast of Fukushima-ken east of us is now in a state of emmergency. It seems that it shut down automatically when the wave hit, but it has to cooled with large amounts of water to avoid it going critical within two days - but the pump to do this was broken by the floods. Building a nuclear power station right on a coast that is susceptible to tsunami's and earthquakes?

  3. Great to here your all ok. I have been keeping up with events and even having seen the pictures, i can't imagine how people will cope with the distruction. Rowan will be so happy to here your all fine when he gets home from school.

  4. Thanks Graeme. The TV pictures are very shocking. Please ask Rowan to tell all the kids at school that we are OK.

  5. Hello, I happened upon your blog as I was searching for news about my late father's hometown area. I am relieved the shaking did not harm anyone, though I'm sure the nuclear plant issue is weighing heavily on everyone. That said, I see lots of great future reading on your blog which will bring back memories of my visit there in the 80's. Thanks for the silver lining of my anxious day.

  6. Best wishes for you and your family from Seattle...

    My wife and I have been to Aizu many times, and in fact her father was born in Aizu.
    We take our family there every year we visit.

    Wishing you continued safety. My wife's family is spread out... Motomiya, Nihonmatsu, Senda... and friends in Iwaki. So far, everyone's accounted for and (mostly) fine.

    Take care