by Lydia Zhang
On March 11, the eastern coast of Honshu, Japan was hit by an 8.9 magnitude earthquake, triggering a tsunami that swept through the surrounding area. This earthquake was the first and largest of many that have struck Japan in the last week. Due to this, Japan has experienced severely limited communication within and out of the country, as well as an increase in the likelihood of nuclear meltdowns in many of Japan’s power plants.
Gunn alumna Miyabi Ishihara is one of the many Japanese residents who have been affected by these earthquakes. “Telegraph poles, trees and cars were all shaking pretty hard so we had to make sure that nothing fell off on us,” Ishihara wrote in an e-mail. Although Ishihara lives in Kumagaya, a city that is 330 miles away from the site of the 8.9 earthquake, she and Kumagaya’s other residents have still experienced the power outages and reductions in food, fuel and water that are common in many other cities in Japan. “Many stores are closed and almost all of the gasoline stands are closed, until some time in the unknown future,” Gunn alumnus Taimu Yamauchi wrote in an e-mail. “Also, it is said that there is going to be another big earthquake coming sometime soon, so we will, as individuals, need to be ready and be prepared so we can survive.”
According to BBC News, these earthquakes have also caused blackouts in many parts of Japan, including the capital city of Tokyo and parts of Saitama, the region where Kumagaya is situated. “All of Japan is going to have a planned blackout at certain times, for example where I live there is going to be a planned blackout from 9 a.m. to noon, and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m,” Yamauchi wrote. “This planned blackout is supposedly going to last at least a couple months, and in other places like Tokyo, it is going to last maybe a year, so I will have to change my lifestyle according to the times when the planned blackouts happen.”
Japan has also experienced shortages of food, fuel and water, and many people in Japan have become homeless due to the earthquakes. “We had to survive off of a little amount of water provided by the school, and a small piece of bread for dinner,” Yamauchi wrote. “And without electricity, water or heater, people were starving, cold and scared. The scene was somewhat a living hell.”
In addition, there have also been problems with communication in Japan due to damaged cables. “For two days, phone calls in Kanto region was not even an option and I couldn’t get through to my relatives in Chiba Prefecture,” Ishihara wrote. “Telephone service in Tohoku region is still dead so there is no way I can contact my other relatives in Sendai and Akita.”
Japanese teacher Yukie Hikida has also experienced communication problems due to the earthquakes, although thankfully she was able to make contact with her mother to ensure her safety. “I was lucky enough to talk with three people just after the quake to make sure that everyone, especially my mother, was safe,” Hikida wrote in an e-mail.
These continuous earthquakes and aftershocks have also created another issue: radiation escaping from nearby power plants. According to the BBC, Japan, whose nuclear energy accounts for nearly 30 percent of its electric power, has had several of its nuclear power plants damaged by the earthquakes and tsunami. Japan’s nuclear reactors have also lost power on multiple occasions, which has caused overheating in the reactors and the possibility that the nuclear material contained in the buildings will melt though the protective barriers and contaminate the surrounding environment with radiation.
Because of these earthquakes, there has been a worldwide effort to send aid to Japan. According to CNN, many associations such as Red Cross, Save the Children, and Mercy Corps, are sending money to Japan and are opening evacuation centers in an effort to help people who are seeking refuge from the earthquakes and tsunami.
In addition, Gunn is also playing its part in helping Japan. On March 25, the Parent Teacher Student Association is hosting the annual International Potluck. All of the proceeds from this event will go to the disaster relief efforts in Japan.