Friday 25 March 2011

Day Fourteen

Dear Friends - in England and around the world,
No blog yesterday. I worked late and, to tell you the truth, I was tired. But here we are today, two weeks to the day after the quake hit. It's been the longest two weeks in my life, but at the same time, it seems to have gone very quickly, especially this last week. Time plays funny tricks on the mind and with the adrenalin running high, my sense of time is all askew.

The news from the reactor is mixed. On the good side, they are now cooling Unit 1 with freshwater rather than seawater and they've got the electric lights on in Units 1 and 3 so now they can see what they're doing. This didn't prevent three operators in Unit 3 getting water in their wellies and suffering large doses of radiation. They've been sent to a specialist hospital in Tokyo. I hope they're going to be alright. Unit 3 is emitting large amounts of radiation. Government spokesman Edano announced that they were  'recommending voluntary evacuation' for people in  the 20-30 km zone (at the moment people there are supposed to stay indoors).  I think the gist of it is that the reactor is not going to be fixed soon and they're looking at the long term dangers to health.

In addition, life is becoming unsustainable within that area. Most of the 10,000 people who remain are elderly and carers don't have the petrol to make visits. Supplies are still not getting in because of the dangers, inherent or perceived. Shops and businesses are closed so it's a no-man's land. They are evacuating whole communities further afield (experience in other disasters has shown that it's better to keep communities together). But one wonders whether  the 150 people bussed out to Gunma today will ever come back?

People have stories to tell. Our accountant had gone out to Soma on the coast. He said recovery hasn't started yet. The Self Defence Forces are still looking for bodies. He found the scale of the destruction mind-boggling. Even when they start to clear up, how would you dispose of all the debris, the concrete, the steel, he wondered? And visitors from Rengo told us about their factory in Sendai. After the earthquake and tsunami warning the staff all went upstairs. After the first wave, some people took refuge in a taller building nearby while the rest stayed put. Then it came, the 10 metre wave, washing away everything in its path. The structure held but all the walls and everything in the factory were washed away. The computers and phones were on the ground floor so they were stranded and it was two days before they were rescued.

Life is more mundane in Koriyama. The petrol station phoned again and let us have special access to petrol so all our staff are now mobile. There are queues at other stations so not everyone has been so lucky but slowly petrol seems to becoming available.  The level of radiation in the city is 3.09 down from the 4.0 recorded a couple of days ago after it rained. The water in the city resevoir is down to 75 bq/litre and safe.
(I know this as it was in the Mayor's new blog of which I am a follower! This disaster has certainly converted us oldies to this new medium.)

The Tohoku Expressway reopened to ordinary traffic yesterday although they say the shinkansen (bullet train) will not re-open until the end of April.

At the factory it was a normal day. The yard full of trucks, the fork-lifts peep peeping away, everyone busy getting on with the job. A joy to see. But orders are down and we've changed working practices: those who've finished their work are to move down the line to help the others. Get the job done, all go home together as soon as possible. They'll be paid for an 8 hour day but these are difficult times - better they're at home than polishing the machinery.

It's snowing right now. Thick flakes. I hope it doesn't settle. Wierd weather.
Love to you all

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