No. 510 . 16 March 2011 
ArchitectureWeek

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Flying over Sendai, Japan, a U.S. Navy helicopter crew surveys vast flooding and destruction, with a large fire in the distance, in the aftermath of the huge earthquake and tsunami that struck on Friday, 3/11/2011. Three U.S Navy helicopter crews and their aircraft went through decontamination after flying through the radioactive emissions plume from the failing Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on Monday, March 14, 2011. Photo: U.S. Navy

Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

As the world knows, a huge earthquake of magnitude 9.0 and devastating tsunami hit Japan on Friday afternoon, March 11, 2011, with impacts centering in the vicinity of Sendai.

Update — 07:00 on Friday, March 25, 2011 in Tokyo — Thursday, 22:00 GMT — Thursday, 2011.0324.15:00 PDT

Reports of direct earthquake damage, due to ground acceleration and liquefaction, are becoming available. Liquefaction broke water and gas lines in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, leaving tens of thousands of homes without services though far from the epicenter (Japan Times, CollierWard). The Odaiba neighborhood of Tokyo, also built on reclaimed land, and home to the iconic Fuji TV Headquarters, also reportedly shows areas of subsidence damage due to liquefaction.

In Sendai, much closer to the epicenter, preliminary surveys by engineering experts have documented some building collapses and buildings standing with extensive structural damage.

"Survivors are in a very difficult state." (NHK)

The Sendai airport, badly damaged in the earthquake and tsunami, has reopened for disaster relief and emergency traffic.

TEPCO has warned the recent power cuts will last until at least April, and even after that the need to conserve energy will continue. "A legacy from the 1800s leaves Tokyo facing blackouts," because a long-standing division of electric service, between 50hz on the east side of Japan, and 60hz on the west, limits the ability to reallocate power.

Fuel shortages continue to limit disaster relief and responses. Fuel supply is complicated by a series of problems, including lost refining capacity, damaged roadways, limited communications, a shortage of tanker trucks for fuel delivery, and a lack of electricity for fuel pumps. (NHK)

Medical supplies are limited in disaster areas, with concern about poor healing conditions and the potential for spread of diseases in the evacuation centers. The supply of medicines needs to be actively reorganized to fulfill the needs of evacuees at more than 2000 shelters, including places where help has not yet reached. (NHK)

Factory shutdowns are still expanding, ranging from Toyota and Sony in Japan, to General Motors in the U.S. Tightly linked supply chains have been disrupted by loss of production of various widely-used parts. (NPR, NY Times)

Monday, March 21, 2001

On Monday in Japan, as on Sunday, it was not clear that much had changed. The number of victims unaccounted for is still growing (NHK). Substantial problems of communication, distribution, housing, and at various levels of basic infrastructure remain from the disaster that can probably only be addressed through large-scale concerted efforts, started promptly and maintained over a very long time.

The total of confirmed dead and reported missing is currently about 21,000 (NHK).

Clearing of roads is underway throughout the stricken area with construction equipment. Continuing fuel shortages in some areas threaten to limit the pace of this work (NHK).

Hundreds of thousands in shelters, suffering from significant and in some cases debilitating levels of continuing deprivation, include both hundreds of thousands of survivors from the tsunami devastation areas, and another estimated 100,000 who have had to retreat from intact dwellings — dwellings that happen to lie within the 20-kilometer (12-mile) official evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear accidents.

Nature, the preeminent international scientific journal, has published an interesting news piece on what may be learned from detailed analysis of the 9.0 quake in Japan for earthquake prediction in other regions — Giant Shock Rattles Ideas about Quake Behavior. "Geophysicists had thought that great subduction-zone earthquakes happened only where younger oceanic crust scrapes its way into the mantle. Older crust, which is cooler and denser, was thought to slide much more readily downward, triggering smaller quakes."

"If the subduction zone near Sendai can produce a great quake, then other areas with similarly old ocean crust might too, says Okal, who says that Tonga and the northeastern Caribbean are regions to look at more closely."

As Saturday morning dawned on a battered Japan, commencing the second week of the disaster, it was our hope that regular supply of basic needs to 500,000 in shelters was being established, with the characteristic collective efficiency of an amazing people.

On Friday morning in Miyagi prefecture, nearly a week into the overwhelming disaster, the BBC reported disaster areas where essentially no relief aid has reached. On Thursday, the head of Fukushima prefecture issued a public plea for help, and for better public information.

Rotating blackouts were not needed in the Tokyo area Thursday night, due in part to increased emergency conservation measures including reduced train service and business shutdowns.

During the day on Thursday in Japan, six days into the disaster, efforts to provide water to overheating cooling pools at the Fukushima Daiichi plant were ineffective, both by helicopter and water cannon, while radiation levels around the plant remained very high, preventing direct access to the reactor buildings. more detail...

Thursday morning dawned on a shattered landscape in northeast Japan, as it will for many days to come.

Snow was falling fast on Wednesday evening, five full days into the disaster, in devastated Minamisanriku, where 8000 people, or about half the town's population, remained unaccounted for.

Donations statement for the Japanese Red Cross Society.


Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

The official total of dead and missing from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan is over 22,000 as of Tuesday, 3/22/2011, with 9080 people confirmed dead, and 13,561 listed as missing. The total is still expected to rise further. (NHK)

"Many areas of the town are simply gone" in Sendai (CNN) and other communities. Major tsunami damage is reported for a length of 500 km (over 300 miles) along the northeastern Japan coastline. To date, though losses due directly to earthquake shaking appear to be significant, the losses from tsunami inundation appear to be very much greater.

Communications are largely down and roads are blocked by debris in much of the disaster area. Water, food, and transportation fuel are in short supply. Nearly all train lines remain shut down in the broad disaster area, and all Shinkansen service northeast from Tokyo was suspended. Japan Rail announced limited national service on Monday.

More than 440,000 people were stated to be in some 2,400 evacuation shelters (NHK) across northeastern Japan, and the actual number may be higher. Nights are cold and heating is in short supply in shelters. Rain and snow has started in the disaster area.

People were also still waiting for rescue outdoors a week into the disaster, and in many isolated locations, as many smaller communities and parts of larger communities remained isolated by flooding, debris, and road damage. Thirty-two bridges were currently reported damaged, and 66 landslides were reported (NHK). Widespread debris even hampered helicopter rescues. As of Monday morning, March 14, 2011, 24,000 residents were identified as stranded in 80 isolated locations (NHK).   >>>

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