Sunday, March 13, 2011 | Categories: Episodes
On Cross Country Checkup: Japanese devastation
The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on Friday have caused untold misery.
And damage to nuclear power plants is raising fears of a meltdown.
What's your reaction to the disaster in Japan?
With host Rex Murphy.
I don't believe there is any need to say again what great catastrophic natural violence has hit the country of Japan. The images and stories of the last few days have given an inescapable beginning-of-an-idea of the scale of damage, death, dislocation and sheer terror and anxiety that island country is have to deal with.
One of the most piercing of all these stories lies in a single phrase: half of the Japanese coastal town of Minamisanriku ten thousand are reported, simply, as missing.
It is not callous to note we have no real idea yet of how high casualties may be; nor of the civil and economic damage over the long terms. But the earthquake, subsequence shocks, the threat of meltdown at some or all reactors, a volcanic eruption over night -- all resources strained. Poor Japan is going through a time of testing without parallel.
It is also worth noting as many people have, how against this terrible destructive background, the citizens of Japan are responding -- amid their grief anxiety and shock -- with remarkable bearing and discipline: no reports of wild rioting or looting -- no reckless disbanding of the civil codes that keep all real societies functioning.
Today, obviously we want to talk of this huge calamity. We will have the Japanese ambassador to Canada on as our first guest and let him give us some idea of his country's hurts, what it needs, how his citizens are responding.
We encourage any Canadians who have relations in Japan or who have family there, to give a call and tell us what they have learned about particular situations -- how people are coping, how much more is expected -- and how reliable are the news reports.
Japan is under a merciless hammer -- a calamity has hit the country and its people -- we'd like your thoughts on this story, and any sentiments you wish to express for the comfort of the Japanese people.
Our topic today: "What's your reaction to the disaster in Japan?"
I'm Rex Murphy ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 137 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.
Globe and Mail
Foreign Affairs Canada
My heart goes out to those poor Japanese people who have been caught up in this horrific dissaster. I pray for them and their country.
Kingston. Nova Scotia.
This morning I tried to imagine even the smallest, most direct scale of this disaster - a deluge of water pouring down my street and filling my house up to the 3rd floor. Would I be able to get out? Would my cats drown? How long would I wander around outside before finding a safe refuge? Would I die of thirst in the meantime? Would my neighbours survive, or would their houses be washed away too?
To know that people are living this,or in many cases, not surviving, is heart-wrenching. Perhaps the worst part is that, ultimately, all most of us can do is watch. I don't know what drives us to be spell-bound by this disaster, but I hope it says something positive about human nature.
After looking at the devastation in Japan caused by their expected once in a century Big One, I cannot help but wonder how well BC and the rest of us will cope when our Big One hits.
Surrey, British Columbia.
I sat through Hurricane Andrew at the Miami airport some years ago. What I learned from this experience is that although the earthquake and Tsunami was a horrific event in Japan I would warn that the worst is yet to come. Being without power creates issues far far beyond what anyone can imagine. I would hope that alot Japanese people affected by this event will temporarily leave Japan and take the hospitality offered by Canada and other countries.
Agassiz, British Columbia.
I beg to differ with your first guest after watching a CNN video of the stacks at the nuclear plant near the epi-centre just rocking, then smoking during the earthquake. Clearly, damage was sustained. The government is to blame for allowing a nuclear reactor to be built on a fault line.
My heart goes out to all those in Japan who have died or lost family and friends.The Japanese did a brilliant job designing buildings that would stand up to certain earthquakes but who could have thought the ocean itself, so important to Japanese culture and history, would do so much damage.
But I know the Japanese people are resilient. They are not isolated and I do hope the Canadian government uses Canadian resources to help Japan in a meaningful way. But it has to be done now, and by decisive decision not by committee and political conniving. I wish Canada had a truly independent civil service and emergency structure in place to respond to these disasters. It ought not to depend on the exercise of power of the prime minister after the fact. We can never be as effective as we need be under these conditions. I am still waiting to hear what Canada's response is and how it is evolving.
I suggest the Canadian government ought to have had ready planes with water, food and medical ready to go at a moment's notice as such products will become increasingly necessary as these awful days pass. In addition, there ought to be rescue teams and resources that can be instantly called on and dispatched. We ought to have learnt from Haiti. We ought then to have solid and reliable communication protocols in place to allow for diplomatic exchanges to enable co-ordinating efforts and getting our contrbutions to needed sites.
These resources could also be used in Canada should the need arise (and it will). However, I am very pessimistic about our ability to respond to such disasters given the current state of our federal government.
I first wish to express my deepest and heartfelt condolences to the Japanese people. They will surmount this horror, although it will take a long time due to the scale. The scale of this disaster is beyond words, the pain and suffering happening as we watch helplessly is really demoralizing.
Japan moved 2.4 meters in the direction of North America. When an entire country moves 2.4 meters in our direction, could it mean that the Earth will need to compensate for this movement here along the West Coast? We must pay heed.
Victoria British Columbia
Responding to a previous caller who focused on the dangers of nuclear power, I am concerned that his perspective may have been overly focused on nuclear without consideration to the magnitude of the quake. For example, if Japan (or any other world location) had the topograhy for hydroelectric power and a dam suffered a catastrophic structural failure and wiped out cities downstream would we demand a prohibition on hydroelectric facilities? If a thermal power plant had suffered a catastrophic structural failure with release of millions of litres of fuel oil into the sea would we demand these facilities be banned? I'm sure that lessons learned about core and facility design will elevate the safety of like facilities in the future.
I realize that this topic today is not a debate on nuclear power but he also claimed that tens of thousands of Russians have died as an result of Chernobyl and this is just fanciful misinformation that bears correction. Please see the recent UN (IAEA) report on this topic.
Richmond, British Columbia.
There will be no public health consequences as a result of the nuclear reactor situation in Japan. So far there has been one casualty at a Japanese nuclear plant in the aftermath of the quake/tsunami. That was a crane accident, and not at the plant that is getting all the attention. So here we are, with millions of people homeless and desperate and the world is talking endlessly about a problem that has produced, and will produce, few if any casualties.
I feel like we're really lucky here, in Canada, especially Vancouver. And, while we sip our wine, enjoying dinner cozy in our warm homes and beds, and are exposed to the media's reports of nearly intolerable global issues. Earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear toxicity, miners, Haiti, Japan, flooding, wars for money, and on and on.....I have a feeling of survivors' guilt and walking on eggshells at the same time. It's not if, it's when. I have earthquake insurance, as many do, but no prepared earthquake kit (as many do not) I know it's non-sensical. Insurance rarely covers flooding, nor tsunami damage.
Vancouver, British Columbia.
The Japan tragedy points out one important fact: that we should take notice of that is remove politicians from the decision making process. Scientists should be making determinations on what and and how and not be pushed away from the table by the politicos.
I never thought I would say this, but I might actually vote for Harper, if he announced that he was pulling all Canadian troops out of Afghanistan and immediately sending them to Japan to help. That kind of military expenditure would make me a very proud Canadian.
Victoria, British Columbia.
I would like to provide some info as I understand what's the current situations are in Japan, esp. from what I've heard on the press conference held by Tokyo Power, the owner of the nuclear power plants in the area
- The earthquake itself did not damage the power plant, but the tsunami was in such a scale that it caused unexpected damages
- Rolling black-outs are planned in the areas outside of the affected area in order to accomodate power shortages caused by the shut-down of several nuclear power plants damaged by the earthquake/tsunami and the previously planned, yearly shut-down of power plants that are not damaged
- They estimate (or rather are working hard to achieve) that the power level will be back to the normal level by the end of April
- They are negotiating with the major customers (i.e. manufacturing companies, hospitals, etc.) so that they can get ready for the rolling black-outs, and some manufacturing companies have decided to close their plants voluntarily
- In order to minimize the negative effects of the rolling black-outs, the Tokyo Power Company has customer services centers where anyone who needs special needs to operate medical devices (such as breathing machines) at home on onging basis. However, there might be a shortage of portable batteries to operate some home medical devices.
Another thing to note is that Japan has total population of more than 100 million, and the population is concentrated to a few major cities. The area directly affected by the earthquake is rather rural, so in terms of percentage directly affected by the earthquake is small, but in terms of actual numbers are rather large.
There is probably no society better prepared for this kind of disaster than Japan. A practical, realistic preparation and an organizeable, cohesive, low crime population will be envied by airy fairy Canada when it happens here.
Without the hysterical anti-nuclear agitation of the last 50 years, we would have progressed to much better, more robust reactor designs. Many thousands of Chinese coal miners would probably still be alive and working at something better.
Vancouver, British Columbia.
My wife has been attempting for days to contact her best friend and family in Sendai. Finally she gets a message that everyone is o.k. (badly shaken) but has no power, water etc. They are limited only to sending messages via cell phone (plugged into the car -which has little petrol) and the service has been sporadic at best. With all that is going on, guess what they have been relying on for updated news and information on what services are available? They are still getting their daily delivery of the Kahoku Shimpo Newspaper! As the son of an old school newspaper journalist had to smile.
We spent our evening using modern technology to research nearby sources of food, water and petrol for them from all the electronic sources available and have sent over a list but I doubt it will be any better than what they will have on their front door when they wake this morning.
I put together a site to offer support for those affected by the earthquake. It's called 10@10.
Here's the link:
It's my way of trying to offer some help in the face of this unimaginable event.
For decades I have worked for an international NGO. My ability and desire to ' register' my travel details when in India, Nepal, Ethiopia or Bangladesh, was about 50/50. I am about to leave for a trip in Nepal, to very remote areas and found out how very easy it is to register on-line - so I did. When I heard on your show this afternoon, that the Canadian Embassy had checked up on Canadians in Japan, I was glad I did. Who knows what might happen when I am travelling. At least now the relevant 'desk' in Delhi, Kathmandu, or Ottawa knows I am in Nepal for a certain period of time, and they have the mobile phone number of the person I will be with.
I realize the evacuation of Canadians from Libya and other countries has not always been perfect, but at least they know where I am. I have the utmost confidence in my colleagues in Nepal and the Canadian Cooperation Office in Kathmandu. Tthey don't need to come get me. It is just nice to know they can know where I am.
As noted by your nuclear expert it depends on the reactor as to the level of concern that should be had. I have toured a CANDU reactor at Darlington and I can say that their way of producing nuclear energy has numerous fail safe systems. I would have no concern about having a reactor in my back yard as long as it is the correct reactor. Maybe they should put one in Fort McMurray Just like motor vehicles some are safe and some are not so much.
My sympathies are with the people in Japan. They are a geat country.
With the massive rise of off shoring manufacturing, a local disaster can have disasterous effects everywhere. A country with concentrated manufacturing for export, that collapses for whatever reason can leave other countries that have abandoned that manufacturing with serious shortages of various items.
The just in time concept of not stockpiling supplies in country, but instead depending on a constant worldwide transport system will just worsen the effects. The area of the disaster might also suffer from these effects, by having little in the way of stockpiles of food, medicine, fuels etc. This will strain the import of other supplies for the disaster relief even more, by trying to make room for these basics too.
There are many countries and regions susceptible to natural and political, social disaster, that would leave the rest of the world without supplies of some important items. If the infrastructure of the country is destroyed, other countries will have no infrastructure in that industry to make do.
The situation in Japan regarding the nuclear reactors is a real wake up call for us here in Ontario. It makes no sense that we are planning to ship highly radioactive nuclear waste to Sweden (and then back) via the Great Lakes. It makes even less sense that we are considering the expensive refurbishment and possible building of new reactors here in Ontario.
Conservation and the harnessing of renewable energy by individuals, communities, the private sector and our public corporations should be our priority.
We need to push our leaders - Conservative, Liberal, NDP and Green - to transition away from dangerous and dirty energy like nuclear. We have a Green Energy and Green Economy Act. Let's use it to the max. My heart and prayers goes out to the people of Japan. Let's learn from this tragedy.
Isn't it ironic that Japan got hit by two nuclear bombs, and now there is the possibility of nuclear melt-down? How will the folks there cope with this psychologically?
One of the most beautiful natural harbours in the world is at Matsushima on Matsushima Bay near Sendai. There are no reports of the damage to this site. Has CBC had any reports on damage at Matsushima?
We have insufficient public information (especially to seniors and the general coastal populations on Vancouver and the Gulf Islands) about early warning procedures, sirens, people to contact, where to go etc. I live on eastern Vancouver Island, 5 minutes from the sea in an area which is just as vulnerable should a tsunami decide to head into the Queen Charlotte Strait, Johnston Strait, Georgia Strait. The Gulf Islands residents many of whom live close to shore, would be inundated. Yet no one here in public office ever talks about Warning systems in sirens in place. The Big One in Japan is a serious wake-up call for the Emergency authorities in coastal B.C.
Vancouver, British Columbia.
Regarding the nuclear events unfolding in Japan as a result of damage caused to pipes by an earthquake, Ontario listeners might be reminded about their potential to experience a similar phenomenon. CBC's researchers will be able to confirm that a fault runs north from New York state under Lake Ontario and under the Pickering Nuclear station. I have lived through several earthquakes in Toronto. The most memorable was one in the 1940s that shook our house and broke several of our family's dishes.