Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 11, 2011

SitRep for Japan: Earthquake, tsunami, nuclear plant problems

Filed under: Catastrophes — by Philip J. Palin on March 11, 2011

The earthquake hit hard, the hardest in Japan’s recorded history some say.  The tsunami amplified the hurt.  A wide range of secondary-effects includes damage to the Fukushiima nuclear plant.  At least 3000 have been evacuated from around the plant as a precaution.

It is this cascade of effects that often differentiates catastrophe from disaster.

Earlier today I watched NHK, available to many US cable subscribers.  There is extensive video coverage available at http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/

When I lived in Japan, my principal source of English language news coverage was the Japan Times, see http://www.japantimes.co.jp/

The Kyodo News Agency is a great source of ongoing updates: http://english.kyodonews.jp/

The English language version of Yomiuri Shimbun is another source, see http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/

Whether this generation of Japanese treats March 11 as a catastrophe may depend on their recollection or imagining of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. (Estimated at 7.9 on the Richter, compared with today’s measuring at 8.9 on the logarithmic scale.)  That quake — and the following firestorm —  killed 100,000 to 150,000 people.  While we still don’t have complete information, we are certainly looking at casualties that are a fraction of that total.  As of Friday evening the number of confirmed dead is still under 400.   About 6000 died in the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

Many scientists perceive the United States is “past-due” for major earthquakes above 7.0 in California, in the middle Mississippi valley, and in South Carolina.


More than 1200 dead or unaccounted for (Kyodo/Nikkei)  As of 0500 Eastern, mortality reports differ significantly.  Depending on the outlet (or perhaps on time of reporting) I have seen numbers ranging from under 1000 to over 1600.  Large numbers are being reported missing — including entire trains and towns — but it is too early to draw conclusions as to the status of the missing.  Early Sunday morning, Japan time, Kyodo News Service is reporting a total of at least 1800 dead or missing.

More than 215,000 evacuees are in emergency shelters, 1.4 million households have no water, and at least  three million households are without electricity. (The Guardian correspondent blogging from Tokyo)

At least 20 aftershocks, with magnitudes ranging from 5 to 6.8, rocked Japan’s east coast Saturday, a day after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake devastated the country, causing mass destruction. (Economic Times)

Nuclear disaster feared after power plant ‘explosion’. Japan is battling to avoid a nuclear disaster after an explosion at a power plant in the aftermath of the country’s biggest earthquake and a devastating tsunami. (Telegraph)

High level of radiation reported at nuclear plant (NHK)

Meltdown may be in progress at Fukushima (Nikkei)

Radioactive Material Leak Confirmed At Quake-Hit Fukushima Plant (Nikkei)

Quake disrupts key supply chains (Wall Street Journal)

The area of Northern Japan most impacted is still in winter weather.  The temperature on Saturday night/Sunday morning is 35 degrees Fahrenheit along the coast and colder inland. (See weather underground, where Sendai airport is not reporting.)

The Guardian has a helpful visual overview of the unfolding situation in Japan at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/interactive/2011/mar/11/japan-earthquake-map-interactive

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Comment by William R. Cumming

March 12, 2011 @ 1:03 am

How many 90+ year olds still live in Japan to remember 1923 Earthquake?

Hey the Pacific Rim of Fire looks quite active to me and wondering if the activity is above normal/average/mean or what?

Last I heard the US also has part ownership of the Ring of Fire!

A gap of 50 miles wide in ocean floor and 150 miles long! WOW!

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 12, 2011 @ 9:03 am

Posibility of upgrade of event to 9.1 on Richter Scale which would make it twice as large as an 8.9!

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