So, there was a wake up call this morning at 8:08 in the form of an ever nearer 6.6 quake. Fukushima caught fire which was put out. Some shinkansen lines are suspended. The metro is out during rush hour, a time of controlled chaos in normal times, but … well, just imagine a city of 14 million trying to take a train that is not running. Then, I see this bit of joy:
The Japanese government’s nuclear safety agency has decided to raise the crisis level of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant accident from 5 to 7, the worst on the international scale.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency made the decision on Monday. It says the damaged facilities have been releasing a massive amount of radioactive substances, which are posing a threat to human health and the environment over a wide area.
On March 18th, one week after the massive quake, the agency declared the Fukushima trouble a level 5 incident, the same as the accident at Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979.
Level 7 has formerly only been applied to the Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union in 1986 when hundreds of thousands of terabecquerels of radioactive iodine-131 were released into the air. One terabecquerel is one trillion becquerels.
[From NHK WORLD English]
The trains came back online and I headed out to Gold’s in Harajuku. If I wasn’t so busy I would not have noticed the 6.3 of this afternoon had it not been for my exact position on my back directly below a long row of large CRT TV’s … which began swinging violently. It’s a good thing the gym took the precaution of securing those things really well!
UPDATE: As to the elevation to level 7 … apparently the danger was always at level 7, but the equipment needed to measure such things was destroyed by … what it was supposed to measure!
On the one-month anniversary of the worst natural disaster to ever hit Japan, yet another magnitude 7.1 earthquake has hit northeast Japan prompting the government to issue a tsunami warning, although theheight of the waves are estimated to be no more than 50cm.
According to reports, the ground was shaking up and down as well side to side, as the earthquake hit on Monday. It is unclear if the latest earthquake has caused further damage to the Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukoshima, although workers there have been temporaritly evacuated.
It’s been a month since a magnitude 9.0 quake hit Japan’s northeast region, sending a roiling tsunami – a tower of waves measuring as high as 23 m in some areas – crashing into coastal towns and killing thousands of people.
[From Japan marks one month since quake – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English]
This one was much closer, much shallower, on land and felt very much stronger than the other 7.1 that struck on Saturday night. That one was 40km underwater. Electricity to the Fukushima reactors has been lost and the cooling water pumps are down.
Sunday a quake struck the Tokyo area, but it was only a baby 5.0. Looking round my local shops today there is still no water available. A new change is that now there is also not even Coca-Cola which had been in supply up until last Friday. I ventured out to Omote-Sando yesterday and was heartened and impressed at the energy conservation efforts. The escalators are off. Over half of the lighting is also off everywhere. The passageways, the train stations, the restaurants, and even the shops are dimmed. No more flashing signs. For now, neon Tokyo is in indefinite hibernation.
Also yesterday, in what the government says will pose no major health risk:
Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Monday began releasing 10,000 tons of low-level radioactive water from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant into the Pacific Ocean on Monday evening to help accelerate the process of bringing the crippled complex under control.
[From Tepco dumps toxic water into sea | The Japan Times Online]