Nation Comes Together In Land Of Disasters

Nation Comes Together In Land Of Disasters

Japan has 108 active volcanoes and experiences destructive earthquakes and tsunamis several times each century. 

During these times, the strong character of the Japanese people shines.  They help each other, they reach out, they form even closer bonds with their neighbors and countrymen as they struggle in their recovery time and time again.

After the 8.9-magnitude earthquake and resultant tsunami, the cooperation, humility, demeanor and esprit de corps of the Japanese population are on display again, even in the worse of times where thousands of people have yet to be found. 

Doug Woodring, founder of Project Kaisei and The Clean Half Open Water Swim explains what happened from his first-person perspective.  “I just got back after being rumbled and rolled for three days in Tokyo. It was incredibly sad and dangerous stuff going on there. I lived in Japan 20 years ago, and in doing business there on and off over the years, I always felt I was playing roulette with the “Big One” that was overdue to hit. When I landed on Thursday, a serious feeling went through my blood that this was the trip. I was in my hotel room, on the 7th floor, and [the earthquake] hit, creating a feeling of being in a boat in pre-typhoon conditions.

I had felt many earth quakes before, but this one did not stop. It grew. For almost three minutes the place was rocking, and the TV in my room almost fell off its perch. I started the video camera, turned on the TV, and flipped the channels to see what had just happened. A few minutes later, the live shots of the tsunamis came through. Japan was prepared, but not for the sixth biggest quake on the planet. The waves came just 15 minutes after the first shock, now revised by the US Geological Survey as a 9.0.
 For the next hour, the place rolled, swayed, and moved. The first six aftershocks were in the 7 point range. Unprecedented. The fact that most of Tokyo was in tact was amazing, yet the upper spire of the Tokyo Tower was bent in the serious undulation that one would receive at that elevation, like being at the end of a 200m whip.

That night there was no train service for 38 million people in greater Tokyo. My friend walked 30K to get to his family, as all mobile phone connections were down. Strangely, the Internet still worked, so information was flying via the web.

By Sunday, there were over 300 aftershocks, and the quakes are getting closer to Tokyo, seeming to move down the fault line like a mountain climber hanging on to his ropes as he descends. The nuclear reactors in Fukushima are a clear threat and worry. Last night at 8:30 pm, Prime Minister Kan came on national TV for a live address, and said, “This tsunami was bigger than any of the models that were used to build the Fukushima reactors.  They therefore did not shut off in time, and there are some issues.”  This was about four hours after the outer wall of the reactors blew to bits, because of steam and hydrogen buildup. There is no more power to the plant to keep the cooling water flowing. For the first time ever, they are using salt water to try to cool the plant. A state of emergency has been declared for five of the reactors. Eerily after the Fukushima explosion, there was no live coverage on Japanese TV.

This morning, there were 200,000 people being evacuated. About noontime, that number had risen to 400,000, and iodine pills were being handed out. We do not know what might be happening at the reactor, but neither do the experts. This is incredibly similar to the BP oil spill in the Gulf. There, we had 100 days of perma-flow. Today, we face grave issues in Japan, with experts flying in from around the world to bring some chance of success in moderating the issue. Only time will tell.
In the meantime, Tokyo is eerily empty. Most businesses are closed, the roads are clear, the sun is out, and people are trying to go about their daily business as the earth below them turns to jello every 20 minutes or so. Stores are running out of supplies, and even some areas near Tokyo have lost their water supply.

Japan needs the help of all of us, and we need to be ready for what might happen with some of these nuclear reactors. Now is a chance for all of us to bond together.  My wishes go to all of my friends there, as I felt so helpless not being able to help in a meaningful way. Some of them went out of their way to give me a chance to get to my flight, and it is strange to leave a place which I know so well, and which pretty much has put my on my path to helping the ocean.”

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source
Steven Munatones
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