Tsunami ripples over UP community

By The Beacon | March 23, 2011 9:00pm

UP students from Japan reflect on the recent devastation

(Photo courtesy of photobucket.com)

By Hannah Gray, News Editor -- gray12@up.edu

Yuuki Ohashi – a former UP student from Chiba, Japan, near Tokyo – knew that when the earthquake hit off the coast of northern Japan on March 11, it was different from every other earthquake she has experienced.

Yuuki, who was at home, could not even stand up straight.

For the UP students who are from Japan, the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and its aftermath have hit close to home.

About an hour after the earthquake hit, Yuuki began cleaning up her home when she felt the ground shaking again. However, it felt and sounded different than any earthquake she had been through.

"My family went outside again," Yuuki said in an email. "Then we found dark and red sky covered by smoke."

LPG tanks caught on fire at the Chiba refinery when the earthquake hit. The fire raged for 10 days. It was extinguished Monday.

"Even though the factory was not close to the residential area, we felt scared," Yuuki, whose family is safe, said.

Satomi Fukumoto – another former UP student from Saitama, Japan, near Tokyo – was also at home when the earthquake hit. Like Yuuki, the earthquake was the biggest Satomi has ever experienced.

"I was so scared," Satomi said in an email. "When I saw the live broadcast of the tsunami (engulfing) the towns near the sea, I just couldn't believe what was going on."

Some UP students from Japan were in the U.S. when the earthquake hit.

Junior Seiji Oyama – also from Saitama – received a text message from a friend asking if his family was OK. However, initially, Seiji did not know what the friend was talking about.

"I went to the news on the Internet, and I was really surprised – oh my gosh," Seiji said. "I watched YouTube. (There were) horrible scenes – tsunami engulfed the rice field."

Seiji was unable to make contact with his family for almost two days.

"I tried to make contact with my family, but I couldn't," Seiji said. "I got really upset… But my family is OK. I made contact on March 13."

Senior Maika Canada, from Tokyo, was on her way to Boston, Mass. when she heard about the earthquake.

During a layover in Phoenix, Ariz., Maika checked her Twitter account on her phone.

"I was shocked," she said. "I had no idea what was going on in Japan. It was just crazy."

While Maika could not call her family, she was able to connect with them via email. Her family is safe.

Maika's grandparents live in Sendai, in northern Japan. A couple days after the earthquake, her family heard news of her grandparents.

"I guess it was about two days later, they heard from my grandparents," Maika said. "They are doing OK."

During the natural disaster, Japanese people were asked to conserve electricity. Satomi, Yuuki, Seiji's family and Maika's family are all trying to save electricity.

"Some days ago, every family was asked to save the electricity because the nuclear plant was stopped by the earthquake," Seiji said. "My family also tried to save electricity."

The area has had scheduled blackouts since March 14, according to Satomi and Yuuki.

Even though Japan is in the midst of a natural disaster, students are hopeful about Japan's recovery.

"People are helping each other," Yuuki said. "I saw lots of cooperation and warm behavior during this difficult time."

Satomi worries about another big earthquake, since there are still many aftershocks. Regardless, she is hopeful.

"I appreciate those people who work for saving Japan," Satomi said. "I really hope these efforts will bring bright future in Japan soon. I want to do what I can do as much as possible."

Seiji is also happy about the support that Japan is receiving.

"The American Navy came to Japan – I really appreciate that," Seiji said. "President Obama said he'll do his best to save Japanese peoples' lives. I feel happy in my heart."

- Rosemary Peters and Ona Golonka contributed to this story.


Timeline of events

With everything that has been happening in Japan, it is getting hard to keep all the facts straight. Here is a quick list of the things you need to know.

Friday, March 11

An 8.9 magnitude earthquake strikes off of Japan's northeast coast.

A 33-foot tsunami hits the northeast coast.

Saturday March 12

The cooling systems fail in Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and an explosion happens in the building housing a reactor in the plant.

The force of the quake moved Japan's main island, Honshu, by 8 feet.

Sunday March 13

230,000 people are evacuated from places near the crippled nuclear reactors.

Millions of residents are without any power or water due to energy rationing.

Monday March 14

A second explosion occurs at Fukushima nuclear power station.

1.4 million Japanese are without running water. More than half a million have been evacuated.

USGS upgrades the magnitude of the main quake to 9.0.

Tuesday March 15

Radiation levels reach dangerous levels at the Fukushima power plant. People within 20 miles of the reactor are advised to stay indoors.

Wednesday March 16

A new fire erupts at the Fukushima plant and radiation levels increase at the plant's entrance.

A 6.0-magnitude aftershock hits Japan causing buildings in Tokyo to sway.

Thursday March 17

Chinook helicopters and fire engines dump water on nuclear complex to cool overheating reactor.

Friday March 18

Engineers get a power line to the Fukushima plant.

Fire trucks bring overheating reactors and fuel storage tanks under control.

The crisis level is raised from four to five on the seven point international scale of gravity for atomic accidents.

Saturday March 19

Engineers connect an electricity cable to a reactor at the Fukushima complex.

Abnormal levels of radiation are detected in milk and spinach from areas near the plant. Radioactive iodine is reportedly found in tap water in Tokyo.

Sunday March 20

Engineers check the cooling and other systems at reactor number two at the Fukushima plant.

Monday March 21

The World Health Organization (WHO) declares "no immediate health risk" for short-term exposure to food contaminated by radiation in Japan.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory commission reports the U.S. is safe from harmful levels of radioactive releases from Japan.

Tuesday March 22

Plant operator of Tokyo Electric Power Co. said high levels of radioactive substances were found in seawater near the plant.

American schoolteacher, 24-year-old Taylor Anderson who had been missing, is found dead.

Wednesday March 23

Japanese residents start hoarding bottled water after testing shows radioactive matter in tap water is at levels unsafe for infants.

Officials evacuated some workers from the Fukushima plant as a black plume of smoke billowed above a reactor.

Japanese government expands food restrictions after the health ministry said tests detected radioactive material at levels exceeding legal limits.

CNN reports 9,487 people had been confirmed dead and 15,617 officially listed as missing – a total of 25,104.

About 387,000 evacuees are staying at 2,200 shelters, according to the Kyodo News Agency.


A more in depth timeline can be found at: http://www.swedishwire.com/component/content/article/34:global-news/9027:japan-disaster -timeline-day-by-day