14 March 2011

Japan

For the first time in my life I've actually been following the news. But not all the news, just reports on what's happening in Japan and only on CNN.

This surprises me because I'm not a news person at all. I used to watch the evening news but as soon as I realized that they would lead with the goriest or most shocking story I stopped watching. I also grew very tired of being told about some event but then have no followup on it in future broadcasts. So in the past 16ish years I've relied on my newspaper subscription (I can turn the page if I don't want to read of an event, unlike TV news) to keep me up to date on events happening around the world.

But this tragedy in Japan has me mesmerized. Never has any single news event captured my attention like this. I actually went to my TV and found the CNN station to get updates on what's happening. Now whenever I turn on my TV it's the first station I go to before watching anything else. Even this morning since I'm still not working Mondays I gave the kids a ride to school...after watching CNN for a while.


What I have learned is that Japan is better prepared for earthquakes than anywhere else in the world. The foundations of their tall buildings are built so the building can move with the shaking of the Earth in order to absorb the shock and cause little damage. All the children are trained on what to do in an earthquake and schools over one storey have slides for easy escape. Japan even has the best early warning system for earthquakes so the population can be alerted and get ready for it.

I think it is the combination of the earthquake and tsunami that has crippled Japan. And even 'crippled' isn't the right word here. They don't seem immobilized, just temporarily blocked. Although it seems odd that they wouldn't have taken the combination of tsunami and earthquake into consideration as something to watch for in the past. From what I can gather the tsunami was caused by the earthquake. Maybe Japan isn't used to this particular kind of earthquake? Maybe they thought the odds of the two major events happening within 30 minutes of each other infinitesimal? I don't know.

What is also interesting is how the Japanese seem to be reacting. Maybe it can be chalked up to social customs, but they aren't running around screaming and wailing. There doesn't seem to be any major panic or general disorientation. Instead they appear to be quietly accepting the events and getting ready to move on when they can. The stores are running out of supplies as expected. Not from looting as we'd hear about in the States, but from people buying supplies in case of further emergency.

The nuclear plants do frighten me quite a bit. I can't imagine cities building them if they weren't safe and protected by multiple backup systems but they still scare me. I don't know how much radiation it would take to seriously hurt people in Japan or worldwide and the news reports haven't really answered that question. I haven't heard any 'worst case' scenarios on CNN and am left to wonder what could happen if the plant is not contained in time. Will the wind carry radiation over the ocean to me in Canada? Or even the relatively short distance to China, Korea or Russia? Chernobyl didn't effect us here in Canada at all (that I know of) so I guess I can assume that Japan won't either. I hope.

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