Japan Earthquake, Tsunami and the Subsequent Nuclear Disaster
In the eleventh day of March, 2011, the most powerful earthquake in the record to have ever hit the world struck the Northern Eastern coast of Japan and in the process triggered a huge ocean tsunami. The 8.9 magnitude quake epicenter was in the island of Honshu about 400 kilometers north of Tokyo Japan. The cumulative damage caused by the earthquake and the tsunami was of a scale not witnessed before in Japan (Hibbs).
The tsunami caused by the earthquake also caused destruction of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant making the plant to be declared in a state of emergency due to the risk of release of radiation to the atmosphere. The Japanese nuclear officials reported that pressure inside the nuclear reactor built beyond normal inside the plant making the reactor be at the risk of releasing radioactive material into the air because of the destruction of the reactor cooling systems by the tsunami (WHO 1).
The tsunami rolled in the pacific at a speed of 800 kilometers per hour. The earthquake and the resultant wave left over 40million homes in Tokyo without electricity and caused widespread destruction of other infrastructure in the Japanese coastline of Honshu. The destruction caused by the earthquake and the tsunami left over 10000 people dead and over 180000 others missing. However, the threat posed by the unstable nuclear reactors has remained the main danger posed by the effects of the aftermath of the quake. This threat has made the Japanese government order the evacuation of the people around the Fukushima nuclear plant (WHO 2).
The scale of destruction caused by the tsunami and the earthquake is difficult to grasp around 136481 people remained in temporary evacuation shelters a month after the quake. Many households in Tokyo were still without running water weeks after the quake hit Japan, the estimated cost of repairing the destruction caused by the tsunami, the tsunami and the nuclear mishaps has been projected to hit 300 billion dollars making it one of the costliest natural disasters in modern times (NLM).
After the earthquake and the tsunami struck the Japanese coastline, the Japanese government initiated a massive rescue operation to search for lost bodies and survivors of the disaster. Although the response of the government to the three disasters was quick and swift, the scale of the disaster was too big that the number of people who needed help overwhelmed the government rescue efforts. One thing that hampered the efforts of the rescue of the government is the continued risk of radiation from the troubled Fukushima power plant and fuel shortages caused by the destruction of the quake and the tsunami (WHO 3).
The scale of the Japanese disaster is too big that some regions in Japan have been annihilated and are unrecognizable. Some of the towns, areas are still waterlogged, and this is threatening to become a source of disease to many Japanese. Many people remain homeless and even though the government rescue efforts have provided a form of cover to the homeless, most of the evacuees remain in miserable shelters with little food shelter and water and decent hygiene. The number of people whose health has been compromised by the poor living conditions also overwhelms hospitals (Hibbs).
The increasing horror of radiation emanating from the Fukushima power plant has resulted in radiation sweeping into the sea and soil. The levels of radiation in the sea near the plant have risen to levels 3000 times more than the required limits. The level of radioactive materials has been detected in food in the area around the plant. All the three disasters the earthquake the tsunami and the nuclear disaster have caused an incomprehensible humanitarian crisis (NLM).
Despite the big scale of the disaster, the rescue effort of recovering bodies and property continue. The Japanese government and other international humanitarian agencies continue to provide the necessary medicine, shelter, clothing, fuel to the survivors of the disaster. The national emergency management committee led by the prime minister of the Republic of Japan was established immediately after the earthquake to coordinate rescue and release efforts (WHO 4).
All government ministries have been involved in the response activities. The government has also initiated the nuclear disaster response committee and a state of emergency has been declared in the affected regions. The police, fire and the coast guard department have also been deployed to help in rescue efforts. The ministry of health, welfare and labor has also deployed 120 response teams and 119 standby teams for disaster medical assistance to provide clean water and designed a hospital in Fukushima for radiation assistance (WHO 5).
The ministry of water and finance has also been participating in provision of water portable latrines and provision of other essentials such as gasoline, flashlights, dry ice and for the affected populations. Rescue operations have been conducted through the air and ships. The Japanese government has also established a database for missing persons for international and local use. The government has also established five distribution centers of relief like five in Miyagi and eleven centers in Fukushima (WHO 7).
In responding to the threat of radiation, the government has declared an emergency along the evacuation zones, along the area around the Fukushima nuclear plants. The exclusion zone for Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant is 20 kilometers radius while that in Daini the exclusion zone is a radius of 20 kilometers. Around 270 000 people have been earmarked for evacuation with 200,000 already having been evacuated. The United States government is also offering support for response to this event there are also emergency medical teams and experts on radiations close to Daichi and Daini nuclear plants to offer emergency radiation treatments (Hibbs).
The world health organization and the event management group are also responsible for the evaluation and monitoring of the government rescue efforts in Japan and communicate the appropriate response strategies. However, the government has been criticized for slow responses in some instances although the number of people in temporary shelters has reduced from half a million to 250,000. Many homes remain without running water because the process of repairing water infrastructure has not been fully reconstructed because of the deplorable conditions in some areas (NLM).
The large amounts of mud and water in the stricken areas increase the possibility of disease and sickness. There are no enough personnel to help all the people in need of desperate help. The concern is about the disaster due to the threat of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. This threat has hampered the search for bodies extend beyond the 30-kilometer line near the Fukushima nuclear plant. For the last few weeks, the levels of radiation has risen at the Fukushima nuclear plant and the severity of the radiation has been raised from five to seven making the Fukushima nuclear crisis equal the disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 (WHO 5).
The Japanese nuclear board has been raising the radiation alert levels for weeks now and the JAIF has banned products such as vegetable and dairy products produced near the site of the nuclear plant. A series of explosions in the plant and the melting of fuel rods have made progress in the situation at the plant has been an issue of concern due to the concerns for marine life due to seepage of nuclear contaminated water into sea. The Japanese atomic industrial forum has also been publishing daily reports of the status and the condition of the nuclear power plant (Hibbs).
JIAF publishes reports on the condition of the core of the nuclear reactor and the fuel integrity, the water level and the containment amongst other key information. There has also been criticism on the government rescue efforts regarding the dangers posed by radiation to the workers of the plant. The government has also ordered the Topco Company that operates the nuclear power plant to pay thousands of people evacuated from the region (NLM).
The scale of the disaster has illustrated the power of nature over man. For example, Japan is one of the nation in planet earths that are very well prepared in handling the threat of earthquakes and tsunamis. There are many warning systems in place and the sea walls are built around the coastline. The scale of the disaster was too large to be contained by the manmade mitigation measures. What went wrong with the warning system in japans is that Japanese had not anticipated a disaster of that scale for the last 100 years to 150 years (Hibbs).
The second thing is that geophysicists and seismologists had not anticipated such a big earthquake happening across the Japan coasts these made the people to have unrealistic expectations of the nature of the earthquake that could have happened along the Japanese coast. There Japanese coast is also lined with sea blocks and walls that are about 33 feet high in the region where the tsunami attacked the walls were 10 feet because the government didn’t expect such a sizeable wave hitting the coast of Japan. These low seawalls complicated the things because the waves of the tsunami were caught between the walls trapping people in the water (Hibbs).
The scale of the disaster in Japan proves to the world that it largely underestimates the power of nature, and sometimes it is impossible for man to keep nature at bay. Although Japan had built many evacuations strictures for tsunamis, many of these structures were too short because the Japanese were not expecting any huge type of wave from the tsunamis (WHO 6).
The nuclear crisis sparked by the tsunami on the Fukushima nuclear plant has also sparked worldwide concerns about the safety of nuclear power. Many nations have conducted reviews of the safety of their n nuclear plants as a result of the Japanese nuclear crisis. The scale of the Japanese disaster has made nations to treat with caution the ambition of development of nuclear power. Fortunately, the Japanese rescue efforts have managed to reverse the tide towards a full meltdown of the nuclear plant and they hope to stabilize the troubled nuclear reactor within a year (NLM).
There are many lessons that nations should learn from the crises, it is essential to operate modern forms of nuclear reactors that use safe and the latest technology, which can be improved, regularly the troubled reactors in Fukushima are over forty years old and use outdated technology that poses risks in case of failure of the plant. Countries should also not rely on nuclear energy alone because in the event if a nuclear accident like the one in Japan can cause a major interruption of power and supplely crisis like the one witnessed in Japan.
The use of nuclear power can also make the policy makers in government to be under pressure to continue to allow the operation of nuclear reactors even in the unsafe conditions if there is an overreliance on the use of nuclear power (Hibbs). The scale of the disaster that hit Japan shows the severity of nature and the way man is limited sometimes in taming the vulgarizes of nature. It is apparent, therefore, that countries should always remain prepared to face disasters of big scale because it is not possible to predict the scale of natural disasters that a nation will face in the future.