Yesterday was 1st April, i.e. three weeks from that gigantic earthquake. The Government decided to call the earthquake “East Japan Earthquake”. A new fiscal/academic year started yesterday in Japan, and there were entrance ceremonies at government offices and companies everywhere. Prime Minister Kan and the other ministers started wearing suits, as if to convince the people that we are entering a new, more forward-looking stage. Here are some basic figures of the disaster as of 1st April reported by the Asahi Shimbun: 11,734 dead, 18,152 missing, 166,729 evacuees. I would like to mention that enormous man power, both from abroad and domestic, has been devoted to the rescue and search operations.
Let me roughly summarize notable achievements in combating the disaster during the last three weeks:
1st week: improvement of communication networks and electricity supply
2nd week: improvement of transportation systems and fuel supply
3rd week: improvement of daily living conditions of sufferers and of food and water supply
Following the Executive Committee’s Statement of 18th March 2011, all the disciplinary committees of the Science Council of Japan have been working hard to write their urgent proposals. Geographers have been very active in Regional Studies Committee, where Human/Economic Geography Committee and Geography Education Committee belong on one hand, and in Geoscience Committee, where Human Geoscience Committee and IGU Committee belong on the other. There will be a line-up of proposals (sorry, only in Japanese!) next week.
This year’s spring conference of the Association of Japanese Geographers (AJG) in Tokyo was cancelled, but there was a representatives’ business meeting on 28th March, attended by some seventy people. There was an unusually long discussion on what to do about East Japan Earthquake, and there was common agreement in reinforcing Hazard Committee. The research team led by Professor Yasuhiro Suzuki of Nagoya University mapped the tsunami front and the areas of severest damage on 1:25,000 topographic maps, as you see at:
http://danso.env.nagoya-u.ac.jp/20110311/map/index_e.html Provision of GIS-based maps is also underway.
Academic communities concerned, including geographic and geoscience communities, observe the gentleman’s agreement of refraining from going to the disaster-stricken areas for field surveys till Japan Geoscience Union gives a go. So, eight local geoscientists conducted a pilot survey during 18-20 March under a very strict condition, and reported widely about the situation. Their conclusion was to refrain from surveys for some time. Some local members of AJG Hazard Committee will conduct a pilot survey soon in order to find out the current situation. It is generally believed that major surveys of the devastated coastal areas will not become possible for another three weeks or so.
On 27th March I rented a car in Tokyo and drove just half way (100 km) to Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The survey site was in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Ibaraki prefectures, and was well beyond the restricted zone. Tsukuba Academic City, which I visited on the way, was seemingly normal, with little sign of earthquake damage. However, research institutes and universities there had in fact their facilities and infrastructure badly damaged, and my friends there said that it would not be easy to return to normal. The scar of the quake became more evident as I drove further northeast closer to the sea coast. Many houses had blue plastic cover on their roofs (Photo 1), and road repair work was still going on at places. On the coast over there were heaps of rubble here and there (Photo 2), indicating the attack of tsunami. Land subsidence and liquefaction were observed in the lowland areas near the coast and the Tone River, and they damaged roads at many places, though many of the damages had been temporarily repaired already (Photo 3).
Thanks to the government-backed earthquake-proof building reinforcement, buildings in Japan are becoming very strong. However, the terrible damages caused by tsunami, land subsidence, liquefaction etc. suggest that there are more things to consider if one wishes to live safely.
2 April 2011