Cosmo Oil Refinery in Chiba on fire after Miyagi Earthquake

Cosmo Oil Refinery in Chiba on fire after Miyagi Earthquake (Source: AP)

I just arrived home from the most terrifying experience of my life. At about 14:50, my conversation at work was interrupted by a familiar but no less terrifying swaying. For a few seconds, my colleague and I looked at each other, but by the time the shaking intensified and the windows began rattling, we had escaped into the crossing in front of our second floor classroom. Despite standing on the asphalt, the floor was moving like the deck of a ship caught in a storm. My legs shook with fear as I could only watch the lights and street furniture moving to and fro. We were okay, but it was clear that many wouldn’t be.

At magnitude 8.8 and Shindo 6+, it is the 7th largest earthquake in recorded history, equal to last year’s Chilean quake that caused a mini-tsunami on the Japanese coast (just over a year ago now). What coastal areas weren’t damaged by the earthquake have been devastated by tsunamis of up to 7 meters. The entire Pacific shoreline, even those you’d expect to be sheltered, are still under tsunami alerts, and now I’m hearing Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano discussing a 3 kilometer evacuation zone around a nuclear reactor in Fukushima (close to the epicenter) – although no leak has been detected.

The country is at a standstill. I walked home in 2 hours, but my wife has been walking for nearly 7 now and hasn’t yet arrived. But while we civilians outside the disaster area are plodding along, the emergency services have been swift in erecting traffic control and controlling the blazes and casualties throughout the capital. Much of my local area in Kawasaki has been plunged into darkness, but the police were there to guide us home. This is how emergency management should work.

The Japan Times has already commented on the SDF reaction:

All ships docked at the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Yokosuka base were ordered to sail to waters off Miyagi, and eight fighter jets took off from four bases of the Air Self-Defense Force to check the quake damage.

This has been a long day, and you’ll forgive me for signing off here as I wait for my wife to get through the door. I want to commend the Kan administration for its swift response and my heart goes out for the people in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima, the areas worst hit.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch