Japan Death Toll rocketing and Infrastructure Reduction is Startling

Let us make a few things clearabout the quake and tsunami that hit Japan,or more properly the east coast of Honshu.  It was many times stronger than the tsunamithat struck Sumatra several years ago.  It was far closer than the Sumatra seabed quake which was almost unnoticed.

That tsunami killed about 200,000people.

In Japan the shore line appears to bewell built up and terribly vulnerable.

On top of all that, noengineering in the world is able to defend against something thispowerful.  The tsunami wave front reachedthirty feet in height.

As first reports trickle in, itis clear that multiple towns have been literally wiped out.

It may turn out that goodplanning has minimized the death toll but it is hard to see how a death tollapproaching and surpassing the 100,000 mark could have been avoided atall.  The reality is that it isimpossible to plan for a thirty foot tsunami at all except to never build onlow lying land anywhere.

The economic damage will also becatastrophic.  It is marvelous that fewif any buildings actually collapsed in Tokyo.  The problem is that they have done their dutyand may now need to be knocked down.  Sofor starters, perhaps ten to twenty percent of Japan’s infrastructure will need tobe rebuilt.

Houses may not actually fall down,but they are no good if pillars are split and connectors broken.  The quake was way too violent for any ofthose buildings to come back on line easily.

There is no good news unlessliving through a once in a millennia event is good news.

Oh yes, we also have discoveredthat our nuclear reactors become disasters during these events.  What happened to failure modes that naturallysnuff out reactors, or was it all just a lie or commercial inconvenience?  It is very bad, though it appears that theywill get shut in successfully before this is all over.  Unfortunately it is not a given.

The big question to answer in thenext dozen days is how many were killed? It does appear that it will be moderate in perspective but we do notknow yet.  Then it is winter time andcommunal heating will need to be organized quickly.

In Japan,the search for life yields death and devastation

Sendai, Japan— Globe and Mail Update

Published Monday, Mar. 14, 2011 10:51AM EDT
Last updated Monday, Mar. 14, 2011 12:06PM EDT

The squad of police officers made their way tentatively across what wasonce the parking lot of the Sendai Army Flight School, poking at theshifting ground beneath their feet with long wooden poles.

They used their sticks to prod at the wreckage of lives that had beenlifted up by Friday’s tsunami and deposited here on southern edge of thisbattered city. Splintered homes, flipped cars, a living-room chair, abasketball.

But every now and again, one of the poles would strike something moreunsettling: a human being.

“We find them everywhere. In the cars, beneath the rubble. No oneknows,” said Sho Oji, who was directing a team of a dozen police officersdigging for the dead. He said rescue workers found more than 1,000 bodies inthe airport area alone over the past three days.

He was interrupted by a series of shrill whistle blasts. Another bodyhad been found, deep in the sea of detritus. The entire team of policescrambled to the site, hoisting first a green tarp to protect the dignity ofthe dead, then a stretcher bearing a covered corpse.

And so it went across Japanon Monday, as rescue workers made one ghastly discovery after another. Some2,000 bodies were discovered along the coastline north of Sendaias crews finally reached the hard-hit areas of Minamisanriku and Ishinomaki City. In Minamisanriku, it’s estimatedthat 10,000 of the town’s pre-disaster population of 17,000 are missing.

In Iwate prefecture, farther north, 12,000 people are missing in thetown of Otsuchi,which had a pre-disaster population of 15,000. Another town, Rikuzentakata,which has a population of 23,000 people, has been described as “almostcompletely wiped out.”

Along the coastal highway being used by relief workers to access thevast disaster area, crews of fire fighters and paramedics loaded bodies – someof them tiny – onto blue tarpaulins and lifted them away from the rubble intowaiting ambulances. Eager birds circled overhead.
Though hope remained that some of the missing might yet be found alive,the overwhelming majority of the news was bad.

The official death toll stood at 2,800, but a police officer inhard-hit Miyagi prefecture – the region in which Sendai is the largest city –estimated that at least 10,000 died in Miyagi alone. Tens of thousands ofpeople were still officially missing on Monday, more than 72 hours after theinitial 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered the tsunami.

There have been nearly 200 registered aftershocks since Friday’s quake,many of them magnitude 6.0 or greater. The ground in Sendai continued to rumble at regularintervals Monday, with officials announcing at one point that another majortsunami was imminent, only to cancel the warning minutes later.

That didn’t stop some locals from emerging for the first time in daysto take a look at the flattened coastal neighbourhoods of the city.

“It was such a comfortable, agreeable place,” said KanKichi, a 70-year-old retired engineer, as he wandered through the wreckage ofcoastal Sendai.He pointed to his friend’s rice paddies, and to where he used to go swimmingand fishing as a child.

In his description, the coast sounded serene. But the new reality isanything but: a white ToyotaNova was buried back-doors deep in the side of a hill, a child’s bicycle lay inmud, an ocean fish struggled futilely to swim out of a small puddle it wastrapped in.

“It’s beyond my imagination,” Mr. Kichi said. “I can’t imagine how longit will take to get it back to the way it was.”

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