Japan earthquake

It is a week today since the massive earthquake which struck the north-east of Japan followed by a devastating tsunami. Now there is the added danger of leaks of radiation from a nuclear power plant which appears to be out of control. In Okinawa we are a long way from mainland Japan and were not directly affected by last week’s earthquake. However, we were still on high alert for the tsunami which in the end didn’t arrive here. Since last Friday all television has been taken over by news reports of the quake and its aftermath. Many music and sporting events in Okinawa have been cancelled and in some cases events have been transformed into charitable activities to help the earthquake and tsunami victims.

On 17th January 1995 I was living in Kobe and was caught in the middle of the Great Hanshin Earthquake which took more than 6,000 lives, so the earthquake which hit Japan last week had a special relevance for me and brought back many bad memories of those days. Already the number of dead and missing far exceeds the figures in Kobe. People are now faced with the additional problems of aftershocks and further quakes, as well as power cuts, food shortages, lack of transport and heating. The appalling pictures and scenes of devastation will gradually fade from media coverage as other world events become more newsworthy in the weeks ahead but what my experience of the Kobe disaster makes clear is that the suffering continues for a very long time after that. What is needed now is long-term support and assistance for all those who have survived. The Japanese government might also need to think seriously about alternatives to nuclear power in a country so prone to earthquakes and natural disasters.

I hope that all readers of the Power of Okinawa blog and their families and friends are safe and well. Our sympathies must go out to all those who have been involved in this disaster. Let’s hope that the recovery and rebuilding process will proceed as quickly as possible.

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5 Comments on “Japan earthquake”

  1. Julie Says:

    Thinking of you all. I lived in Kobe for 3 years and I still feel like it is home. I pray for all the people in Japan.I have watched the news every day and I hope that my prayers are answered.

    Stay strong and know that we are thinking of you.

  2. Keith Says:

    I’ve been watching this disaster from the other side of the globe. Even here, safe in England, one feels deeply sorry for all those affected and rather helpless at what one can do to help – donations to aid charities just doesn’t feel like enough but there is little else one can usefully do other than hope and pray.

    And I’ve been watching the nuclear power plant situation with some scientific interest. It seems to me the underlying, long term, issue is not building nuclear facilities in earthquake zones, but in potential tsunami zones. Not all earthquakes can, or do, cause tsunami. It all depends on how the geological fault is moving; which is something that is largely understood. Protecting the plant against earthquakes is a well understood piece of engineering – Fukushima was correctly built for this and it worked far beyond the actual design specifications. What caused the problems was the ensuing tsunami, which could have been foreseen but for which the plant wasn’t adequately protected. What seems to be needed, and this is probably the first lesson to be learnt here, is that there needs to be better selection of sites for nuclear facilities; but not necessarily a blanket ban on building them in earthquake zones.

    I’ve been criticised elsewhere for being wise with hindsight for views such as the above. But hindsight is an essential tool. Without it we don’t uncover and learn the lessons and build better practice. The whole of science, engineering, and indeed project management in all disciplines, is built on incremental improvements generated by lessons learnt from earlier failures. And there will be many such lessons to learn from all aspects of this current disaster. The Japanese are masters at doing this; the whole of Japanese industry is built on such methods. But this is something others can help with; a “disinterested” brain can see things which aren’t obvious to those more intimately involved.

    Meanwhile, yes, our thoughts are with everyone in Japan and especially those in the disaster area. They are going to need a lot of support and healing for a long time. And I feel sure we will all do what little we can to help that along. Be strong!

  3. John Davis Says:

    I wonder what would happen to the nuclear fuel and armaments on US bases in Okinawa if there were a major earthquake in this area.

    Do they realize that an earthquake is possible here too?

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