I’m going to sum up what I’ve been able to figure out from watching news reports, reading press releases, and talking to people over the past few days.
Power and water is still unavailable in a majority of eastern Tohoku. I’ve been able to reach a few friends in Sendai, one in Kami, and one in Furukawa, and they’re all OK. A friend with parents in Fukushima city says they’re OK, if a bit shaken. As for the coastal areas, those have not fared well. Kesennuma area seemed to take the brunt of it, but the farmland areas to the east and south of Sendai including Natori are underwater. I’ve seen images of boats capsized over land as far north as Hachinohe in Aomori prefecture, and as far south as Soma in Fukushima prefecture. Parts of Ishinomaki are flooded, a good chunk of Kesennuma is smoldering or flooded (or both), and I did see a picture of a derailed train in Matsushima. I’ve been to all these places. It really breaks my heart. And the nice little village of Shizugawa I used to ride through on my motorcycle after getting a cup of coffee? It’s gone.
Some news sources are quoting a few ignorant, self-righteous twats comparing the Fukushima reactor crisis with Chernobyl. The anti-nuclear lobby is full of shit, enough to fertilize all the currently submerged farmland and have some left over. If anything, it has more in common with Three Mile Island, but as of now the government has evacuated a much larger area than is necessary, and primary containment is holding. I won’t get into the details of how an RBMK is different from modern BWR designs, but all the affected reactors in Japan are subcritical, even the forty year old Fukushima #1. Yes, all the backup diesel electric generators failed; that tends to happen when you dump a metric fuckton of seawater into them. Yes, small amounts of radioactive Cs137 and I131 have been released. Yes, the top of a secondary containment area blew off. Yes, Tepco has a very shady track record, and if I had to guess they’re probably trying to cover up some bad decisions again. But there will be no nuclear explosion.
And really, there are bigger problems to be addressed at the moment, like how to house and feed tens of thousands of displaced people in winter. Shame on you, AP and Reuters, for publishing the word of sensationalist doomsday idiots instead of something factual. Shame on you for lazy and uninformative reporting, like not telling us the extent of damage in specific towns and cities (no, Sendai does not encompass the entirety of northern Honshu), or how people can help out from overseas.
But despite all the crap people put up with, the Japanese as a whole are being quite pragmatic about the whole thing. This picture sums up the general attitude. This is a photo of the Yamanote line, one of the main train lines in Tokyo, the morning after the quake. All the trains shut down after the quake for safety reasons, and many people had to spend the night at offices. Despite this, nobody tries to push and shove; everyone lines up in an orderly fashion.