Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Some Earthquake aftermath...

Unless you've been living under a rock, by now you've all seen the horrific images of the damage the Tohoku quake/tsunami wrought: whole neighborhoods floating out to sea with the retreating seawater; cars bobbing around like plastic models in a bathtub used by an incredibly dirty child; the awesome film of the tsunami advancing out over farm fields, black water burying the new plantings, greenhouses collapsing like punctured balloons.

And of course, you've seen the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Currently rated 1 level above Three-Mile Island, but 1 level below Chernobyl... "Chernobyl on Steroids", says one American nuclear tech. Stupid ass-covering administrators, delaying requests for equipment and aid desperately needed by the hard-working engineers until it was too late to salvage the situation. The discussions on TV on how to protect yourself from radiation, made doubly surreal when you consider that the people who need this advice the most, those near the radiation, don't have power, or TVs, or, in many, many cases, even homes to watch in....

But what about the day-to-day things? A lot of what happens probably doesn't make it on the international news.

All trains in the Tokyo area were shut down for nearly a day, and most still run reduced schedules. My sister-in-law's husband walked home from Tokyo to their home in neighboring Yokohama - 8 hours! At least she knows he loves her and the kids, eh?! A student's 74-yr-old father walked 6 hours to get back to his home in northern Tokyo. Stores throughout Tokyo, Yokohama, Shizuoka and all of the earthquake zone are stripped bare. My sister-in-law reports that there is no food, no water, no toilet paper to be had right now, and this is in the capital of the 2nd largest economy in the world!

Cell phone service was down across the country on Friday night, with only patchy service and fractured, nonsensical emails delivered after long delays (I got one that said "OK 10 oclo" and that was all).

Tokyo Disneyland is closed, liquifaction in the reclaimed areas of Chiba Prefecture where it lies has turned the streets into stinking mud holes, cracks and splits running across neighborhoods.

Schools throughout most of the Tohoku area are closed for the foreseeable future, of course, but so are most colleges from eastern Tokyo to the northern tip of Honshu. Most have even cancelled their entrance examinations, a true shock in the country which invented the term "Examination Hell". Students can't even qualify to attend the next school year, which begins in April. They will decide on Friday whether to hold the annual Spring Koshien High School Baseball Tourney, which one of the local high schools qualified for, or not

The entire eastern half of the country is undergoing rolling power outages, and the only reason the western half isn't is because the frequency of the current is 60Hz instead of Tokyo's 50Hz.

Even the kids are affected, with TV showing earthquake news 24 hours a day, so they can't even escape into their favorite cartoons.

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