Quake disaster in Japan โ€“ generous support and genuine precautions needed

Tokyo โ€“ Exactly a week has passed today after the tsunami wave that followed an unexpected quake measured at 9.8 rector scale jolted the whole of north eastern region in Japan last Friday afternoon (Mar. 11). The tsunami washed away homes and facilities yet to take account of the damage and left over 6000 deaths, about 10,000 people missing, and 300,000 people homeless in Miyagi, Iwate, Fukushima and several other adjoining prefectures. People in other prefectures are scared and worry about the radiation that are blowing from the damaged nuclear power plant located in the Fukushima city in the region. Though the authorities are doing their best to prevent radiation from the damaged nuclear power plant in Fukushima and the state media have explained that the radiation can affect only the people exposed direct and in the area within the limits between 20 to 30 kilometers, lack of reliable information has kept the people scary and disrupted in the whole nation the smooth supplies of essential food and energy such as gasoline that are transported from one area of storage to another. Even in northern Tokyo, where I live, gasoline stations have put up “sold out” signs from early Tuesday. Due to the damage on the power plant, the Tokyo electricity company has imposed scheduled load-shedding and the major railway lines have reduced the number of trains they operate. For example, the Keiseiline that operates trains between the two major airports of Narita and Haneda through Tokyo city, has suspended rapid and express services and run local trains operated only 20% of trains that used to carry thousands of passengers a day. Passengers are being advised to check train schedules before they leave home for Narita and Haneda airports at (http://www.narita-airport.jp/en/access/train/index.html). The NHK news broadcast last evening (Mar. 17) warned of an unannounced load shedding anytime at night even in the 23 wards of Tokyo metropolitan city. However, by today, exactly a week after the quake and tsunami, things have turned better โ€“ airports in the tsunami hit areas have been cleared to bring in supplies of food, water and medicines, while railways resumed operation, and roads were reopened to the northeast region though residents between 20 to 30 kilometers from the Fukushima nuclear power plant were asked to stay home for fear of radiation.

Support for the survivors
It is not known what steps have been taken and support given to cremate the dead bodies of an estimated 6000 victims as the news media here in Japan follow a manner of respect for the victims not to show their dead bodies (unlike some northern South-Asian media) on public transmissions. However, national and public television stations have updated the news, views and the actions needed to support the survivors providing basic supplies of food, clothing, heating and medicines while helping find the missing dear and near ones separated by the flood of tsunami wave that gushed away from one another. Thousands of temporary shelters inside town halls, schools in the quake hit areas and beyond had sufferred from lack of such supplies. It is reported that elders homes, hospitals treating and looking after the needy people were finding difficult to sustain properly as food, energy and medical supplies were running out. Despite the supplies available outside, the drivers were finding difficulties to enter the area affected by the radiation blowing from the damaged nuclear power plant in and around Fukushima prefecture in the north-east coastal region just 270 kilometers away from Japan’s capital city of Tokyo. However, by today most of the tsunami hit areas have become accessible by air, rail and road. But the fear of radiation that has spread out among the people living in Niigata, Saitama, Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Chiba prefectures and the Tokyo metropolitan city that alone hosts a population of 15 million remain intact. Many have started temporarily moving southward areas such as Hiroshima, Kumamoto, Kagoshima, and Okinawa island. Nepal Embassy in Tokyo following suit has shifted to Osaka and will be open from next Tuesday.

The spirit of voluntarism among the Japanese is never diminishing. Those who were affected by the quake and tsunami have come forward to help in whatever way they can. Youngsters in the camps involved in voluntarism have inspired others in the camps to follow suit to help older, sick and feeble than themselves by cooking, serving food and hot soup. Meanwhile hundreds of volunteer organizations have come forward to help those victimized by quake and tsunami.

Precautions for future preventions
Quakes and tsunami may not be preventable as they are natural occurrences. However, scientific research can be encouraged to discover measures to prevent human made disasters and natural calamities from causing damages to both invaluable human lives and economy of the nation. Nuclear power plants may be cheaper alternative to hydro power stations or sustainable energy suppliers. However, the danger it has now posed by blowing radiation when the power plants were destructed by the earth quake and tsunami, is immeasurable as the radiation is not visible. For the past half a century, Japan has built more than 50 nuclear power plants all over Japan and had provided enough power supply to its industries that helped develop Japan into a world economic power second only to the United States. However, the damage and the fear among the citizens the nuclear power plants have created are more scary than the energy they have generated for the benefit of the country and its people though the Governor of Fukushima prefecture still calls the nuclear power plant a Japanese pride.

It is time to find alternative to the nuclear generators by closing down the dangerous nuclear power plants before they create further and future calamities to the peaceful people of Japan. Initiative towards call for closure of another huge nuclear power plant located in Hamaoka, Sizuoka in the west Japan has already been taken by a volunteer organization called Plumfield by submitting a petition to the Sizuoka prefecture’s Governor and the Tokyo Electric Power company this morning (Mar. 18). The petition flowed online and through emails has been signed by 20,429 signatories before it was handed over to the said authorities. The Plumfield organization also plans to hand over another petition to the Prime Minister of Japan at the end of this month (March) to reconsider the operations of nuclear power plants starting with the Hamaoka plant in Sizuoka prefecture south of Tokyo. To stop future disaster by nuclear radiation hit by earthquakes and tsunamis and to sign in the petition about stopping Hamaoka nuclear power plant, readers supportive to saving innocent lives are requested to visit http://www.momodelic.sakura.ne.jp/hamaoka_genpatsu/english.html and show solidarity with the petition to close dangerous nuclear power plants in Japan.

While praying for safety, speedy recovery of people from the calamities and, appreciating the genuine support for the strength to rebuild Japan, the nation and people we love and respect for their efficiency and generosity, it is time for friendly countries such as the US, Germany, France etc to suggest alternatives to the nuclear power plants as genuine preventive measures from disasters of earth quake and tsunami than marketing nuclear power to Japan. Friends in need are friends indeed.

– Suwarn Vajracharya,