Updates and Video of Japanese Earthquake’s Aftermath

March 12, 2011, 5:37 am

On Saturday, The Lede is continuing to track news out of Japan a day after a devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake and a deadly tsunami. Updates below mix news alerts with reports from bloggers and journalists on the ground.

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<a href="-on-the-damaged-nuclear-reactor”>1:58 P.M. |More on the Damaged Nuclear Reactor

Despite an explosion this morning, the health risk from radiation leaking out of the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant is likely low, the World Health Organization said on Saturday.
“At this moment it appears to be the case that the public health risk is probably quite low,” Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the organization, told Reuters. “We understand radiation that has escaped from the plant is very small in amount,”
As the situation evolves in Fukushima, here’s some more information on the facility and the nuclear industry in Japan. The plant has six reactors, though only one appears to have suffered significant damage.
According to a chart published by the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency, the damaged reactor was the first in operation at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s facility in Fukushima and began operating in 1971. Here’s an aerial view of the facility from the Japanese government:

Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport An aerial view of the nuclear facility damaged in Friday’s tsunami.

The plant’s current problems, stemming from the earthquake and tsunami, appeared likely to increase safety concerns over Japan’s extensive nuclear power facilities, which have been criticized for major safety violations in the past.
Reuters reports that the company that operates the Fukushima facility and many others, know by its acronym TEPCO, has had its own troubles over the years, including falsified repair records and other safety issues.
According to the World Nuclear Association, there are 54 nuclear reactors in Japan providing approximately 30 percent of the country’s electricity, with several more planned.
Below is a map published by the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organziation of the locations of the country’s nuclear power plants.

Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organziation Labels mark the locations of nuclear power plants around Japan.
1:05 P.M. |Videos of a Narrow Escape and a Rescue in Japan

Toward the end of this short news clip — in which a Japanese news anchor discusses the assistance to be provided by American rescue teams in the coming days — there is dramatic footage from Friday of a bus that appears to drive to higher ground only seconds before a wall of water rushes in:

More than 300,000 people have been evacuated from their homes, according to Kyodo News, and Japan’s Self-Defense Forces are using helicopters to rescue many of those who are still trapped.
The video below shows a helicopter rescuing a family on Saturday from their home in Souma City in the Fukushima prefecture.

11:53 A.M. |Satellite Images Reveal Extent of Flooding
Japan Satellite EarthquakeNASA via Reuters

Satellite images of the Sendai region captured by NASA on Feb. 26, above left, and on Saturday reveal the extent of flooding along the northeastern coast nearest to the epicenter of Friday’s earthquake.

11:28 A.M. |No Imminent Meltdown, but Plenty of Aftershocks
U.S.G.S.The United States Geological Survey has been updating a Google map with aftershocks.

The ground continued to shake in Japan from a series of aftershocks on Saturday, and the United States Geological Survey reported a new earthquake of 6.4 magnitude about 52 miles off the coast of Fukushima, where a damaged nuclear plant has been leaking radiation.
Officials had announced plans to head off any threat of meltdown by cooling the reactor by pumping in sea water, but there were indications that the effort had to be put on hold because of new tsunami warnings after the large aftershocks off the coast.

UPDATE 10: Sea water injection put on hold Battle to stabilise earthquake reactors http://bit.ly/eGgu4h #fukushima #nuclear #japanSat Mar 12 16:10:03 via TweetDeck

As my colleague Matthew L. Wald writes, officials said that a major meltdown was not imminent. Reuters has been posting live updates on the reactor situation, but reliable information has been in short supply so far.
Even the best tsunami defense in the world — at the plant and throughout Japan — appeared to be no match for seas that surged as high as 30 feet, effectively moving the ocean over top of the land.
The Guardian posted satellite images of how the coastline was changed during the tsunami, along with the following amateur video of the water as it rushed through a parking long in Sendai airport. Shocked travelers watched from inside a terminal as cars wash away:

As my colleague John Schwartz writes for the Week in Review:

Japan is a rich, high-tech nation with much rough experience of seismic rumblings: those factors have led it to plan, and plan well, for disaster, with billions spent over the years on developing and deploying technologies to limit the damage from temblors and tsunamis.
Those steps almost certainly kept the death count lower than it might otherwise be – especially in comparison with the multitudes lost in recent earthquakes in China and Haiti. Last Friday, however, showed the limits of what even the best preparation can do.
“I’m still in shock,” said Ivan G. Wong, the principal seismologist of URS Corporation in Oakland, Calif., contemplating Japan’s efforts to resist earthquake damage and its parallels to building standards in this country.
“This is really the best analogue we have for the United States,” he said, and “I’m just flabbergasted by the amount of damage we’re seeing.”

10:42 A.M. |Thousands Missing After Quake
NHK via Agence France-Presse A television image shows overturned train cars in Fukushima Prefecture on Saturday.

Thousands of Japanese remain unaccounted for on Saturday, a day after an earthquake and tsunami flattened large sections of coastal towns across the country’s northeast.

NHK reports that 5,000 homes in Rikuzentakada City, Iwate Prefecture, have been flooded. In Arahama, 2,700 homes are missing.Sat Mar 12 15:26:38 via web

The Kyodo news agency reports that roughly 9,500 people are still missing in the town of Minamisanriku, according to local officials in Miyagi Prefecture; that number represents more than half of the town’s population.
At the same time, the news agency put the number of dead in all of Japan at 1,700 people.
On Saturday, NHK television was broadcasting the names of those who had been confirmed dead — along with their ages, where they lived and where they died — during its live newscast on a blue bar at the top of the screen.
The Web-based tool created by Google on Friday to locate those missing during the earthquake and tsunami had logged more than 60,000 entries by Saturday morning, Eastern time.

9:44 A.M. |Viral Video From Moment of Quake in Sendai

One of the most viewed videos from the Japanese earthquake so far features no scenes of heroism or vistas of tsunami devastation, only quavering images of a teenager’s room, shaking cars and a woman crouching in the middle of an empty suburban road.
Yet nearly seven million people have been drawn to this emotional video from the Aoba neighborhood of Sendai, recorded at the moment the earthquake struck.

“Mom, mom, are you ok!” a boy — possibly a teenager based on the sound of his voice — calls out as he shakily films the quake.
His mother is on the ground outside, apparently unhurt. Neighbors come out to check on the family as the boy goes back into and out of the house in search of car keys and a cell phone.
The video captures a moment of fear that many who live in earthquake-prone areas have experienced themselves. That may account for its viral quality, especially among Japanese viewers.
“When we grew up, we had this training,” said my colleague Hiroko Masuike, who was born and raised in Tokyo but now lives in New York. “All the time were were told, ‘Go lower.'”
Of course, it is hard to know precisely why the woman crouches: “Maybe she couldn’t walk, because of the shaking,” Ms. Masuike said.
As the earthquake passes, the boy and his mother wonder if their grandmother is safe and try to call her, only to find the networks jammed.
Some on YouTube have questioned the authenticity of the video, claiming that its shaking cars and wobbly camera could have been faked. But for those who speak Japanese, the emotions expressed in it are very real.

8:55 A.M. |Major League Baseball Feels Impact of Quake

Among those in the United States watching reports on the tsunami and earthquake on Friday were the dozens of Japanese-born Major League Baseball players getting ready for the 2011-12 season at spring training in Florida.
MLB.com talked to Hiroki Kuroda, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers and a native of Osaka, in a video interview. Like many with friends and family in Japan, he was struggling to make contact with his brother.
At least two players left training camp on Friday to head for home, the Yankees minor league pitcher Kei Igawa, from the city of Oarai, and the Milwaukee Brewers reliever Takashi Saito, who is from northeastern Japan. Both left after failing to make contact with members of their families, my colleagues Ben Shpigel and Richard Sandomir report.
The league has vowed to provide assistance in the aftermath of the quake; the Yankees donated $100,000 split between the Salvation Army and Red Cross, The Associated Press reported, while the Oakland Athletics and the San Diego Padres said they would raise funds during upcoming home games celebrating Japanese heritage.
“Through our shared love of baseball for more than a century, Japan is a particularly special place to us, and we are deeply saddened by the disaster that has confronted the nation,” Bud Selig, the baseball commissioner, said in a statement on Friday. “Major League Baseball will certainly provide aid with the relief efforts in the days and weeks ahead. We will do everything we can to help Japan.”

8:14 A.M. |Energy Agency’s Facebook Updates

The International Atomic Energy Agency is providing updates on the Japanese nuclear plant on its Facebook page.
Here’s the latest update, from 7:47 a.m. Eastern:

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has informed the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) that there has been an explosion at the Unit 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and that they are assessing the condition of the reactor core. The explosion was reported to NISA by the plant operator, TEPCO, at 0730 CET. Further details were not immediately available.
Japanese authorities have extended the evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi plant to a 20-kilometre radius from the previous 10 kilometres. At the nearby Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant, the evacuation zone has been extended to a 10-kilometre radius from the previous three kilometres.
The authorities also say they are making preparations to distribute iodine to residents in the area of both the plants.

7:48 A.M. |Questions Surround Explosion at Nuclear Plant

There is still a question over what part of a Japanese nuclear reactor damaged by the earthquake and tsunami on Friday had exploded on Saturday.
Japan’s Kyodo News agency reports that “there was no explosion at the troubled No. 1 reactor of Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant,” according to Yukio Edano, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary.
Mr. Edano said at a news conference that the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., said that the steel container housing the reactor had not been damaged.
My colleague Matthew L. Wald, who is reporting on the developing situation, writes:

Images on Japanese television showed that the walls of one building had crumbled, leaving only a skeletal metal frame standing with smoke billowing from the plant. The Associated Press reported that the damaged building housed a nuclear reactor, though that report was not immediately verified by nuclear officials. The cause of the explosion was unclear, with some experts speculating that it may have resulted from a hydrogen build-up.
There was no immediate confirmation of news reports that the container of the nuclear reactor itself had escaped damage.

At the same time, The Associated Press reports that shifting winds are threatening areas north of the plant with radiation as it leaks from the hobble plant, according to Japan’s national weather bureau.
Mr. Edano, speaking at the news conference, said radiation levels around the plant were decreasing, as was the pressure on the reactor, news agencies reported.

5:43 A.M. |Video of Nuclear Plant Explosion

Shortly after a 8.9 magnitude earthquake on Friday that shook Japan and generated tsunami waves across the Pacific Ocean, reports emerged of damage at one of Japan’s nuclear power plants. On Saturday, Japanese authorities began evacuating residents nearby the Fukushima nuclear power plant due to the release of radioactive elements into the environment, signs of a possible meltdown at one of the reactors.
As officials worked to repair damage Saturday afternoon, an explosion occurred at the nuclear power plant, damaging one of the buildings.
The English-language news service Russia Today posted video of the explosion as it occurred to its YouTube channel.

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