It’s about 10 hours after a massive earthquake struck northeast Japan and we’re still feeling regular aftershocks in Tokyo, some 250 miles from where it struck. I’ve experienced many quakes living in Tokyo, but this was far and away the most powerful that I’ve felt. Even walking outside immediately after the initial 8.9 magnitude temblor you could feel the ground swaying underfoot for minutes after the initial tremor and the first powerful aftershock, and you actually had to steady yourself. It was extraordinarily powerful.
I’ve been on the radio this evening as I made my way home, responding to questions from broadcasters in the United States. I was asked if there was any panic, to which I’d have to say, not really. When the main quake first struck, there was some initial panic among some of the office workers who poured out onto the streets in central Tokyo. But people quickly recovered, and the long lines at bus stops and taxi stands after work were all extremely orderly. Of course, hundreds of thousands of people won’t be making it home at all this evening, with many of the train services suspended. It will be a long uncomfortable night in the office for many people.
Tokyo Notes blogger Andy Sharp told me:
‘I was home alone as my wife and six-month-old son had just gone out to a cafe to meet a friend of my wife’s. It started to shake, and quickly got bigger and bigger. I hid under my computer desk, my heart was pounding as my office bookshelf toppled, and sounds of glass and crockery crashing down came from the kitchen and living room.
‘As the shakes grew violent, I still didn't feel it was the big one here, but I knew it was massive somewhere else. I went out to the cafe and found my family safe and sound. We got off lightly here in suburban Yokohama, which is just outside Tokyo. But I'm still shaking. My thoughts are with everyone up north.’
This all, of course, pales in comparison with what has taken place in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, where the results of the earthquake and ensuing tsunami have been quite simply catastrophic. Our thoughts are with those who will now have to start trying to put their lives back together after what is one of the biggest earthquakes in history. Local news is reporting at least 300 dead, a figure that’s bound to rise further.
One of the key concerns has been the safety of the country’s numerous nuclear power plants, four of which were reportedly shutdown in the area worst affected by the quake.
Reports are unclear whether there has been any kind of leak. According to CNN, workers at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima are having problems cooling the reactor, and an evacuation of nearby residents has been ordered. The Kyodo News agency reported that a state of atomic power emergency had been called following the quake.
For those who are concerned about the safety of anyone they know here in Japan, Google has launched a Person Finder where you can enquire about a person or post information about yourself or someone you know.
-- The Editor