In Sendai and coastal villages the rescue effort is non-stop. The most recent figures I heard (on tv this morning) were 688 confirmed dead, and 642 missing. That figure was from the National Police Agency, though, as doesn't include figures from the Sendai police, who said 200 to 300 bodies had been found on the shoreline. Near 900 confirmed deaths, in other words--and I doubt they've even begun to find all those whose were swept out to sea. Over twelve thousand homes are destroyed, flooded, or damaged. Some images I saw on CNN do, however, seem to have been over-reported. A photo I saw on the front page of this morning's newspaper showed a train that had been swept away by the tsunami. I showed it to my husband, who said that the train had been empty--all the people on it had gotten out and fled. Which made me feel a little better, though of course I have no way of knowing whether those people were able to flee to safety. I want to believe that they did.
This morning's news said 1596 confirmed dead in Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima Prefectures.
It is almost surreal to sit here in my house with my husband, all of my children, and two of their friends....I went out a minute ago to bang the futons and bring them in. It's hard to believe, looking out my window, that anything at all is wrong a few hours north.
The boys told me they were scared when the earthquake hit while they were at school. Their teacher told them immediately to get under their desks (standard earthquake drill procedure) and to cover their heads with the Bosaizukin (literally "disaster prevention cushion"--it sounds so normal in Japanese and so weird in English) from their chairs. Every schoolchild in Japan has one--it's a required purchase when your child starts school, along with pencil cases and crayons and such. I had to write in permanent marker their names, addresses, blood type, and my name and phone number on the cushion.
|Cici's Bosaizukin (contact info is on the other side of it)|
They have 4 or 5 earthquake drills per year, plus practices that include having mothers go to school to practice exactly how to line up in the gymnasium to be directed to pick up their children in the event of a disaster. Elementary school gymnasiums are the most usual place to go for evacuations. Most of the photos you see of evacuees sitting on the floor of a large room are school gymnasiums. Teddy, my middle one, was in the house by himself when the quake hit because my husband had gone up to school to pick up Cici. Teddy said he was scared, but scooted right under the table as soon as the room started shaking. He was still sitting under the table when Papa came back to get him--good boy. That's the sort of nation-wide, basic-level preparation they do that reduces deaths and injuries. The death toll in the northeast will be high because the Tsunami hit so quickly following the quake, but not as high as it would have been were Japan not so well-prepared. In our apartment, as in most people's in the Yokohama area, some things fell off shelves. Shelves themselves didn't fall over because they are bolted to the wall or have tension rods to the ceiling--a basic precaution that pretty much everyone follows. The kitchen cabinets that I bought when we moved here came with tough plastic strips that I bolted to the cabinet, then into the wall to prevent their falling over in an earthquake. Not that that helps during a massive tsunami, but almost nothing helps against a force as elemental as a huge wall of fast-moving water.
On the news last night, the Japan Meteorological Agency stated that the magnitude of the quake at the epicenter has been designated a 9.0 on the Richter scale as additional evidence became available. This quake was felt literally throughout the country, as the Earthquake Information map from the JMA shows. The numbers on that map are the Japanese Shindo scale of the magnitude as it is actually experienced at sites away from the epicenter. The strongest is Shindo 7 (at the seismic station in Kurihara City), and you can see Strong 6/Weak6/Strong 5/Weak 5 radiating out from that area. Clicking on the map linked below will zoom in on a particular area. The Yokohama Totsuka-ku station (where we are) registered a Shindo4, while Tokyo Suginami-ku (where we used to live) registered a Strong5. The only reason the quake numbers aren't higher is that the epicenter was at the subduction zone some 80 miles offshore. The magnitude of the subduction zone quake, however, is what triggered the Tsunami.
Japan Meterological Agency--Map of Seismic Activity
And here's why not one single building in Tokyo fell down, in spite of seismic stations registering strong5/weak6 activity:
After the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake that hit Kobe, the Japanese did not sit around saying "everything happens for a reason". They got busy inventing some of the most amazing earthquake building technology in the world. That quake may have bent the top of Tokyo Tower--but it didn't fall over. The vast majority of the deaths from this earthquake will not be from the quake itself, but rather from the monster Tsunami that hit only minutes after the quake.
Concerning the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini Nuclear Reactors--last night's newspaper reported that they are using seawater to cool the cores, people have been ordered to evacuate in a 12 mile radius of the plant, and they are being checked for radiation exposure (watched that on the news last night). At this time, there is no meltdown--they are working against multiple factors (quake, tsunami, loss of power, loss of water) to avoid a full-scale meltdown. Here are the most recent news releases I've found (click to open the pdf file):
My husband just got up and said there will be scheduled country-wide rolling blackouts, though he doesn't know when ours will be. I assume it's to divert power to the tsunami-affected areas that are still without power, and probably to the nuclear reactors that are in danger of meltdown (though as far as I know, there has been no actual meltdown).
I'll post more when I know more. Thank you so much to all who commented and emailed--I can't tell you what your concern has meant, and how much it helped when I was thousands of miles from my family during the disaster.