Widely posted on Facebook is the following footage, purportedly by Asahi TV, of the tsunami slowly and steadily engulfing a town in Japan. It is terrifying to see how in the span of just six minutes, it goes from a car calmly driving away to houses and buildings being removed from their foundations:
Much has been made of how Japan is the best-prepared country in the world for earthquakes, as in the Times piece entitled "Japan's Strict Building Codes Saved Lives" looking at the anti-earthquake design features built into structures there. A separate YouTube video shows the resultant swaying behavior of skyscrapers dissipating the seismic forces:One area where design, either in concept or implementation, has tragically and literally fallen short is in the anti-tsunami seawalls that cover roughly 40% of Japan's coastlines. This rather shocking interactive before/after photos feature shows the extent of the devastation at certain coastal areas.
Though the seawalls can reach up to 40 feet in height in some areas, the ones guarding the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station were not tall enough to keep the water out. This, coupled with the fact that "the diesel generators [used for cooling the reactor]...were placed in a low-lying area, apparently because of misplaced confidence that the sea walls would protect them" led to those generators being flooded. Without the generators, engineers at that plant have been forced to flood the plant with seawater, which requires periodically releasing radioactive steam into the environment in order to avoid a full meltdown.
As the death toll soars past 10,000 Japan struggles to cope with rescue operations in the stricken areas, rolling blackouts and now a radiation problem that may be long-lived. It may be little consolation to those directly affected by any of these multiple tragedies, but one thing that Japan does well is study problems and address them with highly intelligent design. The terrible learning process now underway will hopefully reduce the impact of similar disasters in the future, both in Japan and the rest of the world. In the meantime our thoughts and prayers are with those struggling to make things right again.
Hiroaki Ohno/Yumiuri Shimbun, via Associated Press