The Prime Minister has just announced that the explosion at the power plant has only affected the outer structure – not the inner reactor itself – and was caused by oxygen mixing with hydrogen in the outer shell. At this stage, there is no immediate risk of radiation leaking out. They are still looking for a way to get the cooling systems working.
One reason there has been so much destruction in the worst-affected areas is due to the geography:
Kessennuma, the town at the bottom of the map above, used to look like this:
Today it looked like this:
The only thing that looks the same are the mountains in the background.
The idyllic village of Minamisanriku, just to the south of Kessennuma, looks like this in summer:
After the tsunami it looked like this:
You can see what used to be the river with the train tracks crossing over it. Of the 20,000 or so people who lived here, 10,000 are missing.
Around the Sendai city area, the geography is slightly different with large sections of re-claimed land that are used for farming and housing:
The affected areas actually stretch for several hundred kilometres down the coast and there has been a lot of damage from other earthquakes in the Niigata and Nagano prefectures.
Roads into all the affected areas have been severely damaged. 620 sections of road are impassable. Train tracks have been uprooted. The only way in and out of many areas is with helicopters that have a very difficult time finding a place to land.
Here on the ground of a school where 1000 people have taken refuge, they’re asking for food, water and blankets.
50,000 members of the self-defence force have been despatched to help with the recovery efforts. Phone lines are still cut and actually it’s very difficult to get through to anyone in Japan with the flood of calls on the phone network.
I’ve been able to touch base with most of my friends by email. Fortunately, I don’t have friends living in the worst-affected areas, but watching the destruction of places I’ve visited is heart-breaking. I’ve been anxious and teary since it happened and can’t seem to settle down or concentrate on anything.