I'm home, but we'll get to that later. First news.
There are four massive, ten-story cubes at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Power Plant 240 km north of Tokyo. Each contains a nuclear reactor. At 3:36 p.m. today, one of the four reactors disappeared in a burst of vapour. At 7:12 p.m. the evacuation radius around the Fukushima Dai-ichi and Dai-ni Power Plants was increased from 10 km to 20 km (Dai-ni was reduced back to 10 km an hour or so later). Four people were injured in the event, and reported to be conscious.
After a few scary hours, we were updated at a news conference around 9:00: Each reactor is housed in a steel container which is surrounded with a cube of reinforced concrete. A sudden hydrogen-oxygen reaction generated a plume of steam that essentially blew off the concrete while leaving the steel intact (I couldn't quite catch what they were doing with the hydrogen and oxygen).
At 8:30 p.m. they started filling the container with sea water. Radiation levels were reported at 70.5 microSieverts, which is significantly lower than the 1015 that was announced earlier, and which is now said to have been an error. 1015 uSv is about what an average person will experience in a year.
Of 90 people in a hospital 3 km away, 3 have been found to have trace radiation. However, they were advised to simply wash thoroughly, and reported not to be showing any ill effects. Not sure what that means. The wind is blowing from the south and offshore...
The TV is showing us a bit of snow-covered damage in Nagano as well. Looks like those mag-6ers weren't just for show. Landslides, house collapses—terrible, yes, but individual catastrophes on a scale that does not shift a nation or wobble our planetary axis. If we have time to look at a ceiling panel that fell out of a school gymnasium, clearly the worst of the news has finally calmed down a bit
That said, a few minutes ago I threw myself out the door when the TV flashed an earthquake warning with a big red blotch that included Saitama. I was disappointed to find it only a mag 5. How our standards change.
The tsunami are also still coming in. At 3:21 this afternoon Kamaishi in Iwate was hit with one that ate a huge chunk of the town:
Rikuzen-takata, as noted earlier, is essentially flat. The only thing left by the shore is a single 5-story buliding with water marks at the 4th floor.
In Miyagi Prefecture, they have been unable to contact half the population of Minami Sanriku-cho—10,000 people. This does not mean that they are all gone, but it gives you an idea of how hard it is to get in touch with anyone.
I finally left the office today just before 5:00 in the afternoon. Stepping outside was like walking into Dawn of the Dead. There were so few people to be seen anywhere, with those I could see shambling along in groups. There was such a prevailing silence, enhanced rather than shattered by the distant sirens, that it was like walking through an old catholic church. Trains tiptoed into the stations. The Keihin Tohoku line had given up on announcing a schedule altogether. Nobody spoke.
I opened my apartment door to be greeted by my kettle, which had decided to go for a walk in the hall. There were a few bottles in the sink and my mirror was diagonal, but otherwise the only damage came from a vase.
I had foolishly worried that this vase might shatter. Instead, it put two deep divots in my floor and remained perfectly intact among my scattered CDs and stopped clock, which read 2:52.
Water is chugging out of the taps a little funny, and I held the door open while I turned on the gas stove for the first time. I've filled the kettle just in case.
Time to get more than two hours' sleep. I'm removing everything from my walls first.
Twitter translations of NHK updates:
(When the news conferences end, they insensibly revert to night-life...)
Screencaps from NHK-TV: