Sunday, March 13, 2011

March 11, Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

Kimitsu-shi, Chiba-ken, Japan - It has been more than 24 hours since the 8.9 scale earthquake struck North-Eastern part of Japan, causing tsunami of 10 meters that destroyed homes and killed believed to be more than a thousand people. It was indeed a very sad day in Japan - March 11, 2011.

This will be one of my very rare post that will have no picture in it. I want to share my experience in this earthquake.

It was a Friday evening, at 2.46pm Japan Local Time. I was working at a Thermal Power Plant in Futtsu, Japan. At that time, I was just done with checking my email in the site office and was getting ready to go to the turbine deck to checkout some instrumentation before attending a daily meeting at 3.30pm. Just when I was getting ready, the office floor suddenly moved sideways and the movement got stronger and stronger. We immediately ran down the office building to an open space carpark just by the office. We couldn't stand still on our feet. The earth was moving sideways (left right front back) and we had to move our legs to keep our balance. The cars parked at the parking area were shaking too. It lasted for more than 3 minutes, and instantly we knew that this is a big one, a special one, unlike the ones we had in Japan that will usually only last for a few seconds.

People who were working at site in the turbine building stopped work and evacuated the area. Everyone was instructed to return to their office and was prohibited from entering the turbine building. It was about 30 minutes later that we felt the second quake, which I think was stronger than the first one as I could hear the items on the table trembling when I was on my way running out of the office, for the second time. The Japanese colleagues were all putting on their safety helmet in the second evacuation from the office. All of them were seen using their mobile phones to watch the TV news.

After the second shock, the following ones were minor after-shocks that did not seemed to end. I am lucky enough to only suffer from minor sea-sick caused by the after-shocks. My area of Futtsu and Kimitsu were not hit by the tsunami nor suffer from any visible destruction caused by the mammoth earth quake. However, the streets are quiet as everyone stayed in the house watching news about the disaster. The phone lines were out but were restored at around 11.30pm that night. The train system around Tokyo region was reported to be in total shutdown, including the ones opposite of my hotel, Kimitsu train station which was also closed that night. As most of the people in Japan gets to work by the public transportation, they were now stuck in their workplace, many seen sitting and waiting at the train stations in Tokyo. The hotels were reported to be fully occupied too.

On Day 2, rescue efforts continued while the main concern shifted to the nuclear plants in Fukushima, about 250km north of Tokyo and my area, which were reported to suffer from a cooling system failure. An explosion at the Daiichi Nuclear Plant were seen on a video footage in the afternoon raised more concern of a radioactive leakage. Reports have also said that the operators are now using seawater to cool the reactor, a move that showed the intention to scrap the facility in the future. However, it is believed that a partial meltdown have already occurred. Hopefully they managed to cool down the reactor to prevent another major nuclear disaster. I wonder how far can the radioactive leakage reach.

Although it's Day 3 on a Sunday, the after-shocks can still be felt, but not as frequent as the first day. One actually woke me up today. Shelves at the convenient stores were partially emptied due to re-stocking difficulties. Again, all attention will be focused on the nuclear reactors today.

Here are some YouTube videos of the earthquake and tsunami captured and shared by people.

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