Monday, March 14, 2011

The Death Toll Sharply Rises As Rescue Efforts Keep Eyes on Sea and Nuclear Reactors

How to help.

Japan continues to be rocked by aftershocks and scientists are warning of the potential for an aftershock above magnitude 7 within the next week. Several hundred aftershocks have been recorded, and more than two dozen have been above magnitude 6.

With each strong aftershock, the potential for another tsunami exists, and rescue and relief efforts are trying to reach the hardest hit areas.

Yet, the most dangerous situation right now appears to be the ongoing problems at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, where two reactors suffered damage from hydrogen gas explosions, and a third reactor has lost coolant and the plant operators warn that the fuel rods may have been fully exposed - raising the specter of radiation leaks significantly.

Already, crews aboard the USS Ronald Reagan have been hit by radiation spewing from the damaged reactors.

The nuclear powered aircraft carrier and her task force is providing relief efforts along the stricken coast, but the ships are moving away from the projected path of radiation emanating from the damaged nuclear plants. That is going to further slow relief efforts as the ships are providing critical logistical support with their contingent of helicopters.

Entire towns were swept away, and the death toll is expected to rise sharply as estimates suggest the toll may exceed 10,000. Currently the official toll is 2,800 and bodies are being cremated where possible, but local officials are overwhelmed by the numbers.

The scenes of devastation harken back to the massive tsunami in South Asia in 2004, and that's despite Japan being among the most advanced technologically to deal with natural disasters. Even though towns had several minutes warning, the advancing wall of water was simply incredible and overwhelming.

Sea walls were clearly overtopped by the tsunami, but it does appear that they provided at least a momentary reprieve from the wall of water - giving precious minutes of time for people to attempt to flee.

With much of Japan reliant on nuclear power and the ongoing nuclear emergencies, Japanese authorities are implementing rolling blackouts to prevent a total collapse of the power grid until things stabilize. That means that manufacturers are going to take it on the chin - companies like Honda, Toyota and Nissan had affected plants, damaged vehicles and infrastructure, and aren't going to be able to export vehicles for some time - not only affecting their bottom line, but reducing available funds for the Japanese to deal with the crisis. For those in the US, this means that the availability of some vehicles, like the Toyota Prius, Lexus, and other hybrids are going to be limited in the short run.

Moved the link for helping with relief efforts to top, and note that the NY Times has an excellent interactive primer on the ongoing troubles at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Telecommunications providers are scrambling to reroute and repair numerous undersea cables that were damaged or cut as a result of the massive quake. The damage to the cables has reduced Internet connectivity with Japan and made an already tough situation even more difficult.

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