3/18 Earthquake Update03.18.11

It was a beautiful day here in Kobe, a world away from Tokyo. A trip to the supermarket felt like we had turned the clock back to pre 3/11. Rows of amply stocked shelves were a surprising contrast to my last two days 500 kilometers northeast, and watching unhurried customers pausing to consider whether they felt more like sushi, pork cutlet, or some other option for lunch helped me relax. The only hints that we are post 3/11 were an almost bare canned tuna /sardine section  and signs announcing per customer limits:  one bag of rice per customer, five instant ramen. Part of me fears that in two days the tension and panic in Tokyo will catch up with us in Kobe, while another part of me scoldingly says “how silly.”

At 2:46 pm today, exactly a week after, a moment of silence was observed around the country in memory of all who perished. As of today, the death count from this earthquake surpassed that of the Kobe earthquake; NHK news solemnly named this crisis the greatest disaster since the Pacific war. The final death count will no doubt reach at least 15,000 people since at least 10,000 still remain unaccounted for. Conditions in the quake stricken zone continue to deteriorate. Many areas have still not received food, water, or blankets, and kerosene is running out. There is rising concern about influenza and other contagious diseases, and deaths of elderly and those with weakened immune systems have been reported at temporary shelters.  Supplies are being sent: three harbors have been partially reopened, but roads are still impassible in many places and local governments are overwhelmed with the needs. Coworker Jim Peterson leaves Tokyo tomorrow for a supply trip to Sendai with CRASH. We all pray for safety and Godspeed.

A sobering note was the embassy announcement that 600 seats on chartered buses were reserved for American citizens and their dependants who wished to leave Sendai, starting from 8:00 am this morning. It must be a very tough decision to make, and so my thoughts have been with dear friends who are making that choice today.

You probably get as much news or more than we do about the status of the reactors, but it is certain that today is a slightly worse scenario than yesterday. The good news is that Japan Self Defense Force, Police, and Fire Department Special Units are working together with some US supplied equipment to somehow spray and air drop seawater onto the reactors. Electricity has been restored in the area of one reactor. This will power cooling pumps. The bad news is that water levels at all six of the reactors are dangerously low meaning that fuel is exposed and meltdown is more likely.

As I walked along the beach in Kobe smelling the salt air, collecting shells and enjoying my kids, I said a prayer of gratitude for the hospitality of the kind people we are staying with. The broad ocean horizon reminded me of the deep love of mercy of God who sees and hears and carries the suffering of all. God is our strong refuge; he is truly our helper in times of trouble. For this reason we do not fear when the earth shakes, and the mountains tumble into the depths of the sea, when its waves crash and foam, and the mountains shake before the surging sea. (Psalm 46:1-3)


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Posted by Andrea Johnson under Uncategorized.

2 Responses to “3/18 Earthquake Update”

  1. I have never appreciated that scripture as much as in the way that you have framed it today.

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    Posted by Julie on 12/13/09 March 18th, 2011 at 11:16 PMReply

  2. Glad to hear you are safe and finding a refuge in Kobe! I too love the Psalm 46 reference, just like a nice deep breath.
    Any news out of Nagaoka? They must have been shaken by the series of earthquakes, even though they are away from tsunami areas…

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    Posted by Dawn Langjahr on 12/13/09 March 19th, 2011 at 4:57 AMReply

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