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article imageOp-Ed: The earthquake aftermath in Tokyo Special

By Mark Weitzman     Mar 14, 2011 in World
Tokyo - Monday was unlike any day the Japanese people have faced. The power outages, the transit problems, and the recovery efforts are forcing Japan to band together and realize how their lives have been irrevocably changed.
I watched the first news station to make the power outages announcement last night They'd received the fax from the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), and showed the piece of paper on screen and read off every city and locality name and the time periods that the power will be off. An hour later the other stations still had not made the outage timetable announcement.
On my Facebook page, because I'm located in Japan, there is this alert from Facebook. The alert states that the power will be off in "Tokyo". However "Tokyo" and the "Tokyo metropolitan" area are two different entities. Tokyo is a special area that consists of 23 special wards.
Electricity is on within the 23 wards. Cross a given border out of Tokyo's 23 wards and the power might be off.
None of the 23 wards of Tokyo are included in the rolling blackout schedule as of Monday March 14.
The Facebook alert: Japan Earthquake Information - Updated Mar 14, 8:05AM
There will be a scheduled blackout (power outage) starting the morning of 3/14 in Tokyo, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, Yamanashi, and Shizuoka. Areas will be divided into five groups and each group will experience about three hours of power outage.
Please refer to the TEPCO Homepage (as of now, the list is only provided in
Japanese) to find out which group you are in and what time the power outage
will occur in your group.
Train companies have announced that there will be irregular operation, including out of service hours.
Major service outages include: Tokaido Line (all day), Yokosuka Line (all day), Yokohama Line (all day), Odakyu will only operate between Kyodo to Shinjyuku (all day), Keio will only operate between Chofu and Shinjyuku (during morning and evening rush hours).
The Facebook website will not be affected by this blackout.
About this box: Facebook uses this box to provide information to foreigners and visitors in Japan for the duration of the current crisis.
I wrote on March 12 that my wife manages a shop in small shopping center near our apartment here in Tokyo.
She's off today and employees are all calling-in their status. Because of train delays due to the power outages, employees cannot get to work. An employee was able to get into our area from outside Tokyo and is over at the shopping center ready to work, but the department store is announcing it will not open today.
An employee told my wife that she arrived at her local train station in the Yokohama area and saw a long line of people. She asked a person in line about the reason: The line was to get into the station. Now we are seeing TV reports of long, long queues waiting to get into stations, and for taxis and buses.
Obviously the power outages are playing havoc with the trains. When the train gets out of Tokyo, it would eventually enter one of the outage zones. So now they're broadcasting train updates.
By now you know that Tokyo is getting back to normal, though I'd say we are all stunned by the quake and the tsunami. There is no privation in Tokyo, and I would say elsewhere in Japan, excluding the tsunami zone of course.
Our only trouble in Tokyo: We couldn't place an online order for groceries. Orders were being delayed 48 hours due to supply concerns.
My friend two train stops away, in Mizonokuchi, Kawasaki (toward Yokohama) reported last night:
"There's no bread, rice, milk, batteries, flashlights in the stores of Mizonokuchi. Looks like you'll be OK, but I might lose power for up to 7 hours tomorrow!"
He'll be affected by two outages today.
My wife said the selection yesterday at all the bread shops in the department store near her store was slim. She got the last two loaves of pumpernickel.
Another friend tells me her local convenience stores were out of Cup Noodle instant ramen.
A rescue mission of unprecedented proportions is underway in northeast Japan  where tens of thousand...
A rescue mission of unprecedented proportions is underway in northeast Japan, where tens of thousands people are feared dead following Japan's 8.9 earthquake and tsunami.
Japanese Defense Ministry
Another quake
10:06 a.m. Okay. I¹m back from the doorway. It was a short quake, but a bit more of a rocking than the previous aftershocks. The alert on TV indicates it was a 6.2 in the southern area of Ibaraki.
They say we have a 70 percent chance of a 7m within the next two days, and after that a 50 percent chance for several more days.
The Big One was a 9 magnitude.
You know a quake is coming when the blinds start swaying side to side and my Mac desktop starts vibrating. Though I¹m pretty good at feeling the slightest vibration.
My wife says the earthquake detector in their shop is a large potted plant. If someone shouts "earthquake," they all look at the plant to see if it's swaying.
A friend in Saitama, near Tokyo, told me a story about the first quake, the one that started all this.
She was walking home from pre-school with her 1-year-old and 3-year old. The older always resists going home, and is difficult to drag home.
The pre-school is bilingual Japanese-English.
A 30-year-old, male Canadian teacher came out to help her walk the kids the three blocks to her high-rise apartment complex. Here I'm not sure about her timeline. The quake must have hit while they were walking because she said when they got to the apartment building, the power was off.
Then she carried her daughter and the teacher carried her 40-kilo son up 27 flights of stairs to their apartment.
They experienced the aftershocks in the apartment. At the 27th floor, the swaying prevented them from standing. They crouched and braced themselves, each holding a crying kid.
The teacher had been in Japan a year. He said it was his first quake. He doesn't speak Japanese. My friend speaks English well.
Her apartment building is a huge, high tech tower with all the latest features. I doubt it would ever fall from a quake. I believe the swaying is actually an anti-quake feature.
So it's dark in their building, no TV, no mobile or landline service. She's taking care of her two kids and the third "kid". They decide to all walk downstairs and sit in her car to watch the news on the car TV. They stay in the car a couple hours.
There's no power in their entire region. Now the emergency elevator is operating and they go back up to the apartment. At this point it's around 8 p.m., about six hours since the quake. My friend and the teacher comfort the kids for the next six hours, until her husband manages to arrive home from work.
Then the teacher says he feels ill and excuses himself to go downstairs to the lobby and throw up.
He stays the night with them and catches a train to go home Saturday morning. Cup Noodles are also not available in the stores around her neighborhood.
Now my friend and her family will be experiencing twice-daily power outages until further notice.
As I said, it's the morning of Monday March 14 here. There is some news that is startling and that you probably have not seen. In the evening of March 12, in the non-stop cycle of news, one of the Tokyo TV stations had a short video of citizens being scanned for radiation somewhere in Sendai, maybe as they were leaving the evacuation zone.
In the video, there was a small group of people of all ages being directed to special white tents where officials dressed in white radiation suits, headgear, masks, and gloves, waved shiny silver handheld radiation detectors over the people.
This video clip was about :15 seconds long. I saw kids and adults in the video. From their appearance, no one seemed frightened.
Some of the checked people were assisted onto a bus by the white-clad workers. Presumably that bus would take those folks to a hospital. It was reported that two people said they felt ill.
I have been flipping through the many channels of non-stop quake news, and I have not seen that video clip a second time.
Since March 12, I did see another, different radiation video clip. Officials in yellow HAZMAT suits checking citizens.
BBC World is broadcasting video of the first explosion of the facade of that
structure at Fukushima 1. The video was from a feed by Japan's Public broadcaster NHK. However, NHK itself, as best I can tell, has never shown the explosion video. Instead, NHK broadcasts before and after still photos. I saw, once, what should have been the explosion video, on NHK. But as the video played and the first bit of smoke came out of the building, NHK cut away from the video before the explosion.
Except for one time when I saw the explosion video during an analysis segment on a news report, I've not seen the explosion video on any of the channels.
They talk about that first explosion, and the possibility of the second blast, but they don't show the video of the first blast.
American Red Cross volunteers provide blankets and pillows to passengers of a commercial airline fli...
American Red Cross volunteers provide blankets and pillows to passengers of a commercial airline flight taking shelter March 11, 2011, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
US Air Force
The local news here reports that more than 100 people in the Fukushima reactor evacuation area have been contaminated by radiation. That's probably due to fallout from the initial release of radioactive steam at the start of the reactor disaster.
And now the same coolant trouble at Unit #3 at Fukushima 1, and there's some trouble at Fukushima 2.
During a press conference last night, the Minister in charge of the nuclear plants said they¹re pumping in water and were not sure if the water level was rising and covering the rods, because a gauge was not functioning.
A malfunctioning gauge. I was reminded of the movie The China Syndrome.
Fukushima 1 is the oldest in Japan, completed in the mid-1960s. Maybe a plant employee should just tap that analog gauge with his finger.
The evacuation zone is 20km for Fukushima 1 and 10km For Fukushima 2. (The zones overlap.)
Also, in my opinion, there is a lack of news about the reactor regarding what citizens should do if the authorities fail to pump coolant into the reactor.
I have seen explanations and diagrams of how a nuclear reactor functions, but I have not seen any explanation about the danger or why people need to be evacuated.
Based on my experience with live news reports from Japan by international broadcasters, I recommend BBC World or any BBC reporting. BBC has a full time reporter in Japan year-round. CNN reporters cover the Asian region, and come and go.
The CNN reporters in Japan right now do seem to be correct in their reporting. However, after the live CNN reports, the facts are too often mangled in the summaries and further broadcasts by the CNN anchors in the studio.
Overall, I recommend BBC. Also, the BBC reporters and anchors refrain from CNN's breathless theatrics. By contrast, the Japanese newscasters are cool and calm. There¹s no cocked eyebrows or exaggerated intonations. They get the job done. Compare that to the likes of Wolf Blitzer and the constant alarmist reporting of most cable news anchors.
CBS Evening News and ABC News is available here daily. In my opinion, their reporting about Japan at anytime is also accurate.
Meanwhile, the multi-language reports on NHK that had been so helpful following the big quake March 11, evolved into an endless and unhelpful recorded loop of tsunami warnings, even to the point of playing over the live NHK bilingual 7 p.m. newscast Saturday, until someone noticed and flipped off the warning loop audio several minutes into the newscast.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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