Japan marked on Monday the second anniversary of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country’s northeastern region, left more than 18,000 people dead or missing, and caused the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, amid slow progress on reconstruction work.
Memorial services will be held in the three northeastern prefectures hit hardest by the tsunami as well as in Tokyo and elsewhere, with a moment of silence planned across the country at 2:46 p.m., the time the magnitude 9.0 quake occurred exactly two years ago.
Along the Pacific coast, some bereaved family members offered a prayer early Monday morning to mourn for their loved ones.
A future earthquake in the northern part of Tokyo Bay could register the maximum of 7 on the Japanese intensity scale in the capital, stronger than the previously assumed upper 6, according to a study by a government project team released Tuesday.
The larger intensity estimate for the envisaged quake of magnitude-7.3 comes from a finding that its epicenter could be shallower than previously thought, according to the study.
When a quake with an intensity of an upper 6 or 7 strikes, people have difficulty standing, most unsecured furniture moves, and wall tiles and windows are likely to break and fall out.
Geologists have long puzzled over anecdotal reports of strange atmospheric phenomena in the days before big earthquakes. But good data to back up these stories has been hard to come by.
In recent years, however, various teams have set up atmospheric monitoring stations in earthquake zones and a number of satellites are capable of sending back data about the state of the upper atmosphere and the ionosphere during an earthquake.
Last year, we looked at some fascinating data from the DEMETER spacecraft showing a significant increase in ultra-low frequency radio signals before the magnitude 7 Haiti earthquake in January 2010
Crucial efforts to tame Japan’s crippled nuclear plant were delayed by concerns over damaging valuable power assets and by initial passivity on the part of the government, people familiar with the situation said, offering new insight into the management of the crisis.
Meanwhile, a regulator who was inspecting the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power complex when the quake hit offered The Wall Street Journal one of the first eyewitness accounts of the havoc at the site, describing how the temblor took down all communications in the area, greatly complicating the response.
The plant’s operator—Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco—considered using seawater from the nearby coast to cool one of its six reactors at least as early as last Saturday morning, the day after the quake struck. But it didn’t do so until that evening, after the prime minister ordered it following an explosion at the facility. Tepco didn’t begin using seawater at other reactors until Sunday.
Scores of countries have pledged aid to the victims of Japan’s massive earthquake and tsunami, but little of it is visible in many towns and villages devastated by the disaster. In some areas, as victims return to what remains of their homes, an unorganized and often chaotic array of help awaits them — from boxes of donated clothes to free pet food, almost all donated by fellow Japanese.
Roads are wrecked in many areas, and there are acute shortages of fuel. And sometimes, people face problems in finding aid shipments.
"Word of mouth seems to work best," said Machiko Kawahata as she, her daughter and granddaughter looked for clothes at a drop-off point in Kamaishi, a coastal town in northeastern Japan.
No guards were around, no city officials on hand as victims took what they wanted from hundreds of boxes.
"All we have had is the clothes on our backs. But they are good enough. They’ve kept us warm through all of this," Kawahata said.
"We will make do and we will make it through this. If one place offers us half a rice ball to eat, then that is all we will eat."
The worst of times sometimes brings out the best in people, even in Japan’s “losers” a.k.a. the Japanese mafia, the yakuza. Hours after the first shock waves hit, two of the largest crime groups went into action, opening their offices to those stranded in Tokyo, and shipping food, water, and blankets to the devastated areas in two-ton trucks and whatever vehicles they could get moving. The day after the earthquake the Inagawa-kai (the third largest organized crime group in Japan which was founded in 1948) sent twenty-five four-ton trucks filled with paper diapers, instant ramen, batteries, flashlights, drinks, and the essentials of daily life to the Tohoku region. An executive in Sumiyoshi-kai, the second-largest crime group, even offered refuge to members of the foreign community—something unheard of in a still slightly xenophobic nation, especially amongst the right-wing yakuza. The Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime group, under the leadership of Tadashi Irie, has also opened its offices across the country to the public and been sending truckloads of supplies, but very quietly and without any fanfare.
The Inagawa-kai has been the most active because it has strong roots in the areas hit. It has several “blocks” or regional groups. Between midnight on March 12th and the early morning of March 13th, the Inagawa-kai Tokyo block carried 50 tons of supplies to Hitachinaka City Hall (Hitachinaka City, Ibaraki Prefecture) and dropped them off, careful not to mention their yakuza affiliation so that the donations weren’t rejected.
The wind near a quake-damaged nuclear complex in northeast Japan, which has released radiation into the atmosphere, will blow from the northwest and out into the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, a weather official said.
The wind speed will get stronger in the afternoon, blowing as fast as at 12 meters (39.4 ft) per second, said the official at the Japan Meteorological Agency in Fukushima prefecture where the plant is based.
The Fukushima Daiichi plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), is about 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo on the country’s northeast coast.
Japan faced mounting humanitarian and nuclear emergencies Sunday as the death toll from Friday’s earthquake and tsunami climbed astronomically, partial meltdowns occurred at two crippled plants and cooling problems struck four more reactors.
In one town alone, the port of Minamisanriku, a senior police official said the number of dead would “certainly be more than 10,000.” The overall number is also certain to climb as searchers began to reach coastal villages that essentially vanished under the first muddy surge of the tsunami, which struck the nation’s northern Pacific coast. Prime Minister Naoto Kan told anews conference late Sunday: “I think that the earthquake, tsunami and the situation at our nuclear reactors makes up the worst crisis in the 65 years since the war. If the nation works together, we will overcome.”
The government ordered 100,000 troops into relief roles in the field — nearly half the country’s active military force and the largest mobilization in postwar Japan. An American naval strike group led by the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan also arrived off Japan on Sunday to help with refueling, supply and rescue duties.
Amid the despair and mourning, amid the worry over an unrelenting series of strong aftershocks, there was one bright moment on Sunday morning as Japanese naval forces rescued a 60-year-old man who had been riding the roof of his house for the past two days.
Long lines at grocery stores and gas stations along with continued aftershocks and power outages greeted many in Japan on Sunday morning, nearly two days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that left hundreds dead and missing.
Supplies of food and gas were running out in Sendai, the northern coastal city close to the epicenter of Friday’s quake. Those who survived the earthquake and chose to remain in the city were enduring two-hour waits at the supermarket, according to a CNN iReporter in Sendai with the username joeyjenkins.
"They have waited for I don’t even know how long to get gas, as the gas station manually pumps the gas since there is no electricity," joeyjenkins wrote, adding they were without power until early Sunday.