So many news stories are surfacing now, all touching on how bad it is in Japan. Disaster struck following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake. The earthquake triggered a tsunami which destroyed a large part of the island nation and set several other events into motion. There is great suffering and great loss of life. The events continue, and this disaster is far from over.
Let me clarify what you are hearing from news sources...
1. Sendai is/was a large city in Japan, but far from the major cities, and located in an area that is mostly rural and farmland. It was virtually wiped out, along with neighboring towns and communities due to a tsunami. Death tolls are climbing quickly as more bodies are discovered. The rescue operations are near-end, so real numbers will be coming in shortly. It is expected that tens of thousands will have died.
2. Japan is well equipped for earthquakes, and experiences a few each month. Most buildings will withstand even the largest of quakes. They are NOT equipped for a tsunami!
3. Tokyo for the most part is unscathed. Some buildings did have damage, but most had nothing happen to them. There is an odd sense something more to come or of possible disaster, but store shelves in Tokyo are well stocked, and life is going on... just not as normal. There is fuel rationing, and rolling power cuts to save energy. This all may change in the coming hours or days, and probably not for the good.
4. Several nuclear power generating facility buildings containing reactors are in trouble due to cooling failures. More than one is a threat to the entire region and at least one has had a core melt and containment breaches. At this time some 50 workers are continuing to work in these facilities, trying to control the disaster. Knowing they are exposed to large amounts of radiation, they are in effect offering their lives to save the many. Chances are their lives will be very short, if they survive. They should be honored as heroes.
5. Most radiation that escapes is going out to sea at the moment. If winds change this will result in population exposure to considerably higher than normal levels of radioactivity. Japan is ready to supply iodine tablets to the population in the event this happens. We hope that will be enough. The situation has progressively worsened over the last day, perhaps into a spiral of unstoppable events.
UPDATE (3/17/2011, 2:26 pm): (excerpt from BBC News)
Japanese police have issued the latest figures on the number of people who died in Friday's quake and the tsunami it triggered - a total of 5,692 deaths have been confirmed. 9,506 people are still missing. But the number of missing people reflects only the number actually registered with the police, broadcaster NHK reports.
UPDATE (3/18/2011, 10.17 am): (excerpt from BBC News)
The number of people confirmed dead in the 11 March earthquake and tsunami in Japan has reached 6,539, surpassing the toll from the massive tremor in Kobe in 1995, the AFP is quoting Japanese police as saying.
UPDATE (3/18/2011, 12.47 pm): (excerpt from BBC News)
The death toll in Japan has been rising through the day. The national police now say 6,911 people are known to have died in the disaster, and 10,316 are still missing.
UPDATE (3/22/2011, 10.12 am): (excerpt from BBC News)
Police say the confirmed death toll from the earthquake and tsunami is now 9,079, with 12,645 missing.
UPDATE (3/23/2011, 5.30 pm): (excerpt from BBC News)
The confirmed death toll from the earthquake and tsunami has risen to 9,408, and more than 14,700 people are listed as missing.
UPDATE (3/29/2011, 10.45 am): (excerpt from BBC News)
On Sunday it said radiation levels at reactor No 2 were 10 million times higher than normal, before correcting that figure to 100,000 - something the government called "absolutely unacceptable".
The twin disasters are now known to have killed 10,901 people, with more than 17,000 people still missing across a swathe of northern Japan.
Of Interest but not of danger: The US Environmental Protection Agency said it had detected traces of radiation in rain water in the north-east of the country. These are at very low levels and are not of any danger to life (of any kind).
UPDATE (4/5/2011, 1.52 pm): (excerpt from BBC News)
The official death toll from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami which struck on 11 March stands at 12,344, with more than 15,000 people still unaccounted for.
UPDATE (4/21/2011, 3.33 pm):
It is estimated that some 28,000 people have died or are missing in Japan as of this update. 14,000 of them have been confirmed as dead, and over 80 percent have been identified.
Japan has now made a clear 3 mile no entry zone surrounding the Fukushima nuclear power facility. The surrounding 12 to 20 mile zone has now been declared as restricted as opposed to it's earlier designation as an evacuation zone. People are allowed in for 2 hours with an escort to gather belongings. Violators are subject to a fine (quite large) and/or a 30 day jail term.
We send our thoughts and prayers to all of our friends, family and neighbors in Japan. Let us all prey for their safety, and support them in any way that we can.
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