13/03 8.30 pm
There is now no doubt that there has been at least a partial meltdown of Fukushima Daiichi reactor 1 and probably reactor 3 as well. A hydrogen explosion in reactor 3 similar to that seen in reactor 1 is very likely. So far, reactor 2 seems to be under control, although there are reactors in trouble at Fukushima Daini plant as well making a total of 5 in trouble to varying degrees. The situation remains grave, however, there are signs it may be stabilising and efforts to cover the overheating reactors with sea water seem to be helping and radiation levels are reported to be falling. Fukushima is a long way from Tokyo and, while we’re monitoring the situation closely, we aren’t worried yet.
I have the news on in the background while I’m at home and every so often the earthquake early warning system blongs again, but so far nothing bigger than a bit of a wobble. We have been warned that there is a 70% probability of an aftershock of M7 or greater in the next 3 days though. We’re as prepared as possible, and that’s all we can be.
For some reason, the shelves of the convenience stores are empty of bento. This is odd, because bento has to be eaten on the day – it doesn’t keep. Fruit and veg are remaining stubbornly on the shelves in the supermarkets though and they remain well stocked with other essentials and long shelf-life supplies. I’ve heard rumours of petrol shortages but it’s unclear how much of it is genuine shortage and how much is panic buying.
The tsunami warnings were rescinded for the first time since Friday about 2 hours ago.
Rolling blackouts to cope with the dramatically lowered electricity output are scheduled to start in Tokyo tomorrow and could continue for days, if not weeks. It is unlikely it will be possible to repair the damaged reactors at Daiichi and it will certainly be a long time before either Fukushima plant is online while several other power stations across the region remain offline also. I have my torch, my extra blankets and a good book to keep me occupied, so I shall be fine.
Reports of the increasing death toll continue, interspersed with a few remarkable survival stories. Somehow I can never take comfort from such stories; while obviously happy for the individuals involved, all they serve to do is highlight the vast majority who did not get such lucky escapes. Why thank God for miraculously saving 5 when he allowed 10000 to perish in what must have been a tremendously violent death? I don’t believe for an instant many of those caught in the tsunami “drowned”; it isn’t suffocation that kills you when you are caught in a churning maelstrom of smashed buildings, cars and other wreckage powerful enough to rip a ship in half in seconds.
I went to a lovely park in an area of Tokyo called Kitchijoji today to get away from the 24 hour rolling news for a while. It was a blissful island of normalcy, and the number of people enjoying the warm spring sunshine along with me suggested I was not the only person needing such head space.
It was both strange and somehow comforting to be handed a leaflet outside the convenience store as I walked past on my way home. Life goes on in Tokyo, even as it has been torn apart for so many in the North. It feels odd to be getting on with living as though nothing has happened, but it doesn’t help those who have lost their lives to stop living our own.