It is one thing to know that terrible things happen in the world. It is another thing to understand this fact.
Even as you watch CNN and see dramatic footage of whatever tragedy has befallen some obscure corner of the world, you always assume it won’t happen to you. Even living in a country as seismically active as Japan, you know that the chances of being affected are so low, you just don’t really worry about it.
I know that I am a very lucky man. Gunma prefecture is far enough from the fault, and the sea, that we have hardly been affected. The city of Kiryu has seen some property damage, and one death, but most areas were fine. A few books knocked off the shelf, a broken fish tank, smashed dishes. These are things that are a pain to clean up, but things that CAN be cleaned up.
My apartment lost power for about 12 hours, but even that came back on pretty quickly. Some friends in neighboring Ibaraki Prefecture were without power until late Sunday, and still don’t have water. The further north and east you go of course, the greater the disruption and devastation.
Life around here is desperately trying to return to normal, but I suspect that true equilibrium may take a while to return. In Gunma prefecture schools are open, and classes are going on as normal. Though since the 3rd years graduated last week there aren’t as many classes to teach.
I hear that even not counting the potential for a nuclear disaster to the north, the probable permanent loss of those plants means that Japan has lost between 15 and 20% of its total nuclear electrical generating capacity. There have been warnings of rolling blackouts starting today, and possibly lasting until late April. The morning blackouts didn’t go off as planned, which was good news for my coffee maker, though there is still an outage intended for this evening. Despite being an Eagle Scout with my Emergency Preparedness Merit Badge, I actually don’t own a flashlight, an oversight I may not be able to rectify now.
The local stores are running seriously low on food stocks, and gas deliveries have stopped. Gasoline is being rationed, 10 liters per car, and the lines at the pump are out of this world. I have a half a tank myself, which should last a pretty long while if I am careful with it, but who knows when that supply line will be restored. A lot of restaurants are open, though there are shortages there too. Transit links are slowly being restored and brought back to normal, though the planned blackouts will be affecting train travel.
The aftershocks themselves are coming more slowly now. Friday afternoon and Saturday morning saw a lot of shaking, including three quakes large enough to wake me up through a sound sleep. As I have been writing this post another aftershock struck off of the coast of Ibaraki and shook the school rather hard. Worryingly enough the authorities have said that there is a 70% chance of a magnitude 7 or higher aftershock over the next 36 hours. Everybody is feeling pretty jumpy anyway, and even bumping a desk or table is enough to get people looking around a little wide eyed to see if the world is indeed shaking again.