The Witless Clunkery of a Third-Rate Mind

Monday, March 14, 2011

3 days after...

Hi everyone. I'm okay!

I was about to launch into a long and tedious description of my experience in the earthquake, but then thought better of it. Long story short: I was in a coffee shop on the 3rd floor of a 10-storey building. The higher up you are, and the taller the building that you are in, the more you get shaken up, as a general rule. The building started shaking like crazy, people started screaming, I threw decorum to the wind and got under the table like everyone else. We just waited under there for a couple minutes, praying and waiting for the earthquake to subside. Afterwards, we decided to go outside. The streets were full of people and traffic had stopped.

We figured that a park was the best place to be, away from any tall buildings. We went to a small local park and on the way saw a few buildings which had lost windows, or which had panels coming off. One building had a burst water pipe on the 8th floor or so.

At the park, a lot of people had gathered. The general atmosphere was a combination of nervous laughter and genuine fear, with a few people taking pictures. Everyone was checking their phones, wanting to contact loved ones and seeking information, but nobody could get through. A few aftershocks struck over the next half hour or so. You could see buildings shaking, especially when two buildings were close together and you could see the space between them opening and closing. A few army helicopters flew overhead, and at one point a jumbo jet flew quite low over us, probably diverted away from Haneda airport.

We waited at the park until it seemed like most of the immediate aftershocks were over. Then, seeing as how all trains were stopped, and buses and taxis were impossible to get, we decided to walk home. I was quite lucky: I live only 2 hours away from Ikebukuro so I got home while it was still light. Some of my friends walked for 5 or 6 hours and some people I know had to spend the night in their offices.

Now I am back home, and things are surprisingly normal, at least for now. I have electricity (which, apart from my computer and my refrigerator, I am trying to conserve) and hot water. I have food and drink. It is worrying, however, that most places have little or no drinking water (other drinks -beer, pop, juice, milk - are available) and there has been a run on bread and other ready-to-eat foods like instant ramen. Overall though, at least for now, there is still food and drink available.

This might change, though, because gasoline seems to be impossible to get at the moment, and I'm sure this will impact shipping and distribution of food and other supplies. Hopefully this situation gets rectified soon, because it is a bit worrying. I don't want to go and hoard all kinds of food, but I wonder if that is the smart thing to do now...?

The next worry is the nuclear power plants in Fukushima. There are 4 of them side-by-side that all seem to be having trouble. There was an explosion at #1 on Saturday, an explosion at #3 today, and now they are reporting that the cooling system at #2 has failed. This can't be good. Well-meaning friends are kind of fanning the flames of panic by suggesting that we all go and get potassium-iodide pills to protect ourselves from radiation poisoning. I don't know what to make of that, frankly...

Another worry is the increasingly obvious fact that the government is controlling the media, limiting what they can and can't report. This is evidently to control panic, but I think nothing causes panic quite like mis-information, rumors, and the feeling that you're not getting the full story. They have an obligation to tell us what is really happening, but it is obvious now that they are waiting until events are no longer deniable before confirming them. Scary.

Train service seems to be sporadic, and they have announced scheduled power outages for lots of places. On top of this, the meteorological agency (also responsible for earthquake predicting and reporting) is saying that there is a 70% chance of another quake of magnitude around 7, in the next few days.

In other words, everything is okay right now, but there is a lot of anxiety about the immediate future and the next couple weeks. I'll try to stay in touch.


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