Monday, March 14, 9:10 am JST
Here’s an update/summary from where I am.
Tokyo Power’s Fukushima nuclear power plant is unable to generate coolant at least 2 of the 7 power plants. Other people say they are having problems with 6 of 7 nuclear reactors there, plus one further north in Onagawa. According to the government, there is “probably a partial meltdown” occurring in the reactors, and they are operating on the assumption that is happening, but they can’t see inside. They are trying to pump in seawater to cool it down, which is a “last thing to try” because it permanently ruins the reactor. The government believes even if there is a meltdown the reactors will be contained and there will not be large-scale radiation released. A buildup of hydrogen in the containment building of the #1 reactor ignited an explosion yesterday which destroyed the outer building but not the reactor. The government says they are seeing the same hydrogen buildup in the #3 reactor and a similar explosion might occur there. People have been evacuated to a radius of 20 km. Tokyo itself is about 260 km away, so I think we’re ok here. In the Tokyo metropolitan area 3.9 million households are without power. Amazingly, I still have power and Internet, but the grid is becoming overloaded because of the shut-down of the nuclear power plants, so the government and Tokyo Power have started rolling blackouts of 3 hours each, twice a day in most areas. Again, I am lucky because I’m in an area of Tokyo considered “essential for government operations” so they aren’t blacking out here. They did ask us to preserve energy though, so I shut off the main use of energy – my heaters.
This is the largest earthquake in Japan’s history. The magnitude was 9.0 and on the Japanese scale it was 7 out of 7. There have been many aftershocks and my house had been shaking about every 15 or 20 minutes the first day, but aftershocks have gone down a lot and now it’s more like one every few hours. There were two small aftershocks while writing this message though.
The main hit area, of course, is Miyagi Prefecture, which is a couple of hundred kilometers away. There is massive tsunami damage there and I’m afraid the death toll will greatly exceed 10,000. There are entire towns they simply cannot find.
The trains were all stopped on Friday and everybody was stuck wherever they were and couldn’t get home. Today (Monday) a lot of train lines in Tokyo are still down all day. My friend just reached me and said he got to the station but now can’t get to work because the main Sobu line that runs through central Tokyo is down all day today and it’s almost impossible to get a bus.
Phones and cell service are sporadic but improved. I think Narita airport is still closed. Haneda airport is operating I think. Sendai Airport is submerged below water.
I was at a supermarket when it hit, and shelves started falling over. People ran out of the supermarket and I had to hold on to a bicycle post to stop from falling over. It was by far the largest earthquake I experienced. There was no damage at my house – just lots of stuff fell over so it’s a mess. I was able to reach my 92 year old friend, Dave, by FaceTalk on our iPhones because luckily his power and Internet are working too.
The government is saying there is a 70% chance there will be another earthquake greater than magnitude 7 within 3 days. That was yesterday. France, Britain and Germany have recommended their citizens leave the capital until the danger from the nuclear power plants and earthquake warning have passed. I think that is probably being too overly cautious. Supermarket and convenience store supplies are largely sold out, but I have enough food for a few days, and I think distribution will start up again here pretty quickly. People in Tokyo are very very lucky because all we have are inconveniences. The main problems are in Miyagi Prefecture.