13 March 2011
From Japan To…: Is This The Year The World Trips From Disaster To Disaster?
Its seems that every month another country declares a natural
disaster. As our hearts go out to the people suffering from the
Japanese earthquake, as we hold our breath that a potential nuclear
disaster is avoided maybe its time to take note of the seemingly endless
disasters we have already witnessed this past year.
It’s too easy to forget the tragedies experienced, not only were
lives disrupted, and still maybe, but many died. There can be no
complete list of disasters yet it seem every part of our world was
touched by the horrific power of nature.
For the past 12 months consider our world of disasters.
In January this year the New Zealand town of Christchurch was
shaken to the ground by an earthquake with a 6.3 magnitude. Over 160
people lost their lives.
Yet its not only the human life that is the tragedy, but the
disaster has left so many of the residents of Christchurch homeless. Of
an entire population of just of 4 million people in New Zealand,
Christchurch was the home to over 340,000.
It’s not know what the final toll will be of homes destroyed. The
government has promised to assess all 180,000 homes to ensure their
safety, but already its known that of the 2,600 state homes in the
region, 500 have been damaged.
It may have faded into our memories yet think back to early 2010
when Brazil experienced on of the most devastating mudslides imaginable.
In the hills of Angra dos Reis heavy rains drenched much of the area,
so much so that mud from the hillside collapsed onto the villages along
At least 64 people lost their lives while the town was almost wiped from the map.
The destruction of people’s lives and communities was not so
apparent when a huge volcano in Iceland grounded planes across Europe in
April last year. While tragic in its impact on Europe, it was a moment
to look in awe at the power nestled within the earth and that explodes
through the surface causing chaos across the landscape.
From Bolivia in South America to Israel where the world watch the
power of fires as they ravaged the landscape, and took people’s lives.
In Carmel, Israel, December 2010, 17,000 people had to be evacuated from
townships, as fire spread engulfed over 7,400 acres of land, while 41
people died during the tragedy.
In Australia a cyclone of epic proportions ravaged an entire state flipping it into chaos.
Over December 2010 and January 2011 floods melted the landscape, 3/4 of the state’s 519,770
square miles (1346200 square kilometers) of land was declared a national disaster zone.
In the state’s capital, Brisbane at least 26,000 homes were
damaged. In economic terms farmers were estimated to have lost $400
million worth of crops and as the state beings to rebuild its believed
from damage to towns the bill will be more than $600 million.
As most of us sit in our comfortable chairs glued to the
television, warm and dry, suddenly our trivial problems seem to pale
into insignificance as we watch the lives of those many individuals
who’s worlds have been shattered by these disasters.
Yet there is something about the disaster that is unfolding in
Japan that seems to be bringing home to each of us the significance of
Maybe it was the magnitude of the earthquake, 8.8!
Maybe it was the domino affect, with the earthquake triggering a
monster wave, 32.5 feet (10 meters) with the power to flatten entire
cities. Now estimates are that the death toll could possibly rise to
over 1,700 people.
Yet finally it has to be the unfolding nuclear disaster that has
brought home the reality of this disaster. It seems the latest
explosion at the Fukushima reactor no. 1 has increased fears of a
complete nuclear meltdown.
What will this mean for Japan or the region is hard to establish.
It seems from news reports from Japan that the explosion in the aging
plant has destroyed the roof and part of the walls of the facility.
Already in the region radiation levels have reached 8 times the normal
level, within the reactor over 1000 times.
It seems now the worst case scenario is playing out as there has
been a failure in the cooling system. Without cooling there has been a
huge build up of heat within the reactor. Sea water is being rushed to
the site to try and cool the reactors.
For the explosion to have occurred the heat within the reactor
would have reached 2,200 degrees degrees Fahrenheit (1,200 Celsius).
Once that reaches 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,200 Celsius)
the uranium fuel pellets will begin to melt, through the floor of the
facility, through the earth and then the radio-active bi-products will
escape into the air.
How bad that could be for the region is hard to know. The
Chernobyl nuclear disaster left the entire region unsafe to live in,
with long term health affects on the population including a significant
increase in Thyroid cancer, Leukaemia and Cardiovascular disease.
There are so many questions that need to be answered. How this
could the cooling system have failed? Surely there is a backup system
and a backup system for the backup system!
Why was a
nuclear facility was built clearly unable to survive an earthquake, and
given the region lies near a significant fault line surely this was taken into account when building the facility.
Until the full extent of the damage is known we can only wait for
more news from Japan and lets hope that this is a time to reflect on the
year of disasters and the lives of those who have been destroyed or
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For other major stories:
Inspection of homes in worst hit areas of Christchurch complete