Friday, March 18, 2011

Incredible power of Tsunami caused by M9.0 earthquake in Japan

This topic is a bit off from the theme of this blog, but I cannot avoid writing about the devastating occurences during our quick visit to Japan last week.

It was on March 11th, one day after my birthday, around 2:45pm JST. We were on a train to an onsen (hot spring) hotel. We heard a loud and sudden announcement from the train conductor that the train needs to have an emergency stop. And, it stopped abruptly, which stunned me, but then within a couple of seconds, we felt a shake, which stunned me more. The shake continued quite a long time and then became even more vigorous from right to left like a pendulum. Since the train stopped in between two tunnels on top of the cliff, we were worried that it might flip over and fall down the cliff. Anyway, even after the aftershock we were okay. Later I heard it was only Shindo-4 around that area. It certainly felt bigger than that.

We were stuck in the train for 3 hrs before we were led out down to the railroad track via a ladder from Car 15, which had a better landing. It took a while for everyone to vacate the train, as they only had one ladder and we were in Car 1, which was the last car to be evacuated. We were asked to walk to the nearest station along the railroad track. It was getting dark, and we had two heavy suitcases. Then a man who was in the same car with us came and offered me  help. He said he was over 60 years old, and I was hesitant, but his help was greatly appreciated.

The train station where we arrived had literally nothing around it - except one landline phone. Our mobile phones were not working, so I lined up for the landline phone and called the hotel to cancel our reservation. It was a pity as I had spent about 4 hrs researching the best inns around that area, and we were very much looking forward to it. However, that feeling was wiped out when I saw the image of what had happened to the Tohoku area later on. I literally was at a loss for words...

I was watching the news, and it said that the tsunami wave typically moves at 900km/hr until it hits the land at which point it decreases its speed to 90km/hr. But still 90km/hr!!  It is like being hit by a landing jumbo jet. Thousands of dead bodies were found by the shore a couple of days after the first M9.0 earthquake. The tsunami wiped out many towns up to 10km inland. 10km!?!?  How could one imagine that the tsunami could travel 10km inland...

The electricity is out and thus the water which is supposed to keep the nuclear reactors cool could no longer be pumped in. People are trying hard to avoid the reactors overheating, but the effort has not been completely successful. There have been hundreds of earthquakes here and there still (see here:, and the one in my hometown which happened right after we left raised an additional concern of potential eruption of Mt. Fuji. TEPCO decided to do a rolling power outage, which reduced the number of trains in Tokyo area significantly which impacted everyone commuting in Tokyo. Most of the grocery stores have no stocks. People in severely impacted areas don't have food, water, heat, or electricity. There will be serious hygiene issues as well (lack of toilets, no bath, etc). This is truly a catastrophe. And, I believe it will continue that way for a while. The psychological impact was just huge as well....

We got back to the Czech Republic a couple of days ago despite the fact that I felt bad to leave my friends and family behind. We got an announcement a day before our departure date that the departure time had been changed. We were still in Shizuoka (it typically takes about 3 hrs to get to Narita under normal circumstances), and we were worried whether we could get there on time. The Narita Express was not running, and I heard that the buses going from the hotels were not running, either. But later we found out that the buses were running from the Bus Terminals like Hakozaki. We managed to get to Narita in 3.5 hrs. The flight we were booked on was supposed to be a direct flight, but we found out that there would be an extra stop in Korea to change crews and refuel. The total flight time to Vienna was 15 long hours. Once we got to Vienna, we were immediately asked to undergo a radioactivity test. Very thorough. Finally we were reunited with gG in Brno around midnight, exactly 24 hrs after we left Shizuoka. It was good to hold him indeed.

I have been keeping my eyes glued to the earthquake-related news ever since I came back. I am truely worried about my friends and family and how Japan can return to normalcy... If you have $5 to spare, please do donate some money to help people in Japan (

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