Indonesia Quake Expected to Cause Tsunamis within 24 Hours

By JULIAN GAVAGHAN | MAIL ONLINE | APRIL 11, 2012

Buildings shook for four minutes and there were reports of people jumping from windows in a desperate attempt to escape.

Patients also poured out of hospitals, some with drips still attached to their arms. In some places, electricity was briefly cut.

Then, two hours later, a massive aftershock – with a similarly huge magnitude of 8.2 – struck only 110 miles further out to sea, unleashing even more panic.

A tsunami alert was issued for other countries across the Indian Ocean today, including India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Burma, Thailand, the Maldives and other Indian Ocean islands, Malaysia, Pakistan, Somalia, Oman, Iran, Bangladesh, Kenya, South Africa and Singapore.

There are fears of a repeat of the 9.1-magnitude quake seven years go that triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people. Nearly three quarters lived in Aceh, which is on the Sumatra island.

The first quake, which was centred 20 miles beneath the ocean floor, was later thought unlikely to have triggered a fatal wave.

However, the aftershock, which  was centred 10 miles beneath the ocean around 380 miles from the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, may yet unleash a tsunami.

Roger Musson, seismologist at the British geological survey who has studied Sumatra’s fault lines, said the first tremor was a strike-slip quake, not a thrust quake, which causes the sea bed to flip up.

Mr Cameron is visiting the country’s capital, Jakarta, which is 1,600 miles south-east of the province and on a different island, Java. No tremors have been felt there and the city is unlikely to be hit.

He told President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono: ‘Our thoughts should be with those who are affected.

‘Britain of course stands ready to help if help is required.

‘We will stand with you and your government and your people at this time of worry.

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8.6 Magnitude Earthquake hits off Indonesia

By REZA MUNAWIR from BANDA ACEH | REUTERS | APRIL 11, 2012

A powerful 8.6 magnitude earthquake and strong aftershocks struck off Indonesia on Wednesday, sending people as far away as southern India scurrying from buildings and raising fears of a disastrous tsunami as in 2004.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage in Aceh, the Indonesian province closest to the initial earthquake. But an aftershock of almost the same magnitude, less deep that the first quake, hit soon after he finished speaking.

The first quake struck at 4.38 a.m EDT and an 8.2 magnitude aftershock just over two hours later, at 6.43 a.m. EDT. Two more strong aftershocks hit later.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued fresh tsunami warnings for the entire Indian Ocean after the aftershocks. Authorities in Indonesia said there were reports of sea-levels rising off Aceh, but by less than a metre (3.3 feet).

But authorities in India’s Andaman and Nicobar islands, to the north of where the quakes struck, said waves of up to 3.9 metres (13 feet) could hit there.

Individual countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India, issued their own tsunami warnings and people near the coast in six Thai provinces were ordered to move to higher ground. Authorities shut down the international airport in the Thai beach resort province of Phuket.

The quakes were about 300 miles southwest of the city of Banda Aceh, on the northern tip of Indonesia’s Sumatra island, the U.S. Geological survey said. The first was at a depth of 20.5 miles.

Indonesia’s disaster management agency said power was down in Aceh province and people were gathering on high ground as sirens warned of the danger.

“The electricity is down, there are traffic jams to access higher ground. Sirens and Koran recitals from mosques are everywhere,” said Sutopo, spokesman for the agency.

Yudhoyono, speaking after the first quake, said there were no signs of a disaster.

“There is no tsunami threat although we are on alert,” said he said at a joint news conference in Jakarta with visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said Britain was standing ready to help if needed.

“The situation in Aceh is under control, there’s a little bit of panic but people can go to higher ground,” Yudhoyono said.

Warning sirens rang out across the Thai island of Phuket, a tourist hotspot that was one of the worst hit areas in the 2004 tsunami.

“Guests from expensive hotels overlooking Phuket’s beaches were evacuated to the hills behind and local people were driving away in cars and on motorcycles. Everyone seemed quite calm, the warning had been issued well in advance,” freelance journalist Apichai Thonoy told Reuters by telephone.

OUT ON THE STREETS

Indonesian television showed people gathering in mosques in Banda Aceh. Many others were on the streets, holding crying children.

In the city of Medan, a hospital evacuated patients, who were wheeled out on beds and in wheelchairs.

Yudhoyono said he had ordered a disaster relief team to fly to Aceh, which was devastated by the 9.1 magnitude 2004 quake, which sent huge tsunami waves crashing into Sumatra, where 170,000 people were killed, and across the Indian Ocean.

In all, the 2004 tsunami killed about 230,000 people in 13 Indian Ocean countries, including Thailand, Sri Lanka and India.

Wednesday’s quakes were felt as far away as the Thai capital, Bangkok, and in southern India, hundreds of office workers in the city of Bangalore left their buildings while the port of Chennai closed down because of tsunami fears.

The quakes were in roughly in the same area as the 2004 quake, which was at a depth of 18 miles along a fault line running under the Indian Ocean, off western Indonesia and up into the Bay of Bengal.

One expert told the BBC at least Wednesday’s first quake was a “strike-slip” fault, meaning a more horizontal shift of the ground under the sea as opposed to a sudden vertical shift, and less risk of a large displacement of water triggering a tsunami.

The quakes were also felt in Sri Lanka, where office workers in the capital, Colombo, fled their offices.

Mahinda Amaraweera, Sri Lanka’s minister for disaster management, called for calm while advising people near the coast to seek safety.

“I urge the people not to panic. We have time if there is a tsunami going to come. So please evacuate if you are in the coastal area and move to safer places,” Amaraweera told a private television channel.

In Bangladesh, where two tremors were felt, authorities said there appeared to be no threat of a tsunami. Australia also said there was no threat of a tsunami there.

Fukushima is Chernobyl

MyWayNews.com
April 12, 2011

Japan raised the crisis level at its crippled nuclear plant Tuesday to a severity on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, citing high overall radiation leaks that have contaminated the air, tap water, vegetables and seawater.

Japanese nuclear regulators said they raised the rating from 5 to 7 – the highest level on an international scale of nuclear accidents overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency – after new assessments of radiation leaks from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant since it was disabled by the March 11 tsunami.

The new ranking signifies a “major accident” that includes widespread effects on the environment and health, according to the Vienna-based IAEA. But Japanese officials played down any health effects and stressed that the harm caused by Chernobyl still far outweighs that caused by the Fukushima plant.

The revision came a day after the government added five communities to a list of places people should leave to avoid long-term radiation exposure. A 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius already had been cleared around the plant.
The news was received with chagrin by residents in Iitate, one of the five communities, where high levels of radiation have been detected in the soil. The village of 6,200 people is about 40 kilometers from the Fukushima plant.

“It’s very shocking to me,” said Miyuki Ichisawa, 52, who runs a coffee shop in Iitate. “Now the government is officially telling us this accident is at the same level of Chernobyl.”

Japanese officials said the leaks from the Fukushima plant so far amount to a tenth of the radiation emitted in the Chernobyl disaster, but said they eventually could exceed Chernobyl’s emissions if the crisis continues.

“This reconfirms that this is an extremely major disaster. We are very sorry to the public, people living near the nuclear complex and the international community for causing such a serious accident,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.

But Edano told reporters there was no “direct health damage” so far from the crisis. “The accident itself is really serious, but we have set our priority so as not to cause health damage.”

Hironobu Unesaki, a nuclear physicist at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, said the revision was not a cause for worry, that it had to do with the overall release of radiation and was not directly linked to health dangers. He said most of the radiation was released early in the crisis and that the reactors still have mostly intact containment vessels surrounding their nuclear cores.

The change was “not directly connected to the environmental and health effects,” Unesaki said. “Judging from all the measurement data, it is quite under control. It doesn’t mean that a significant amount of release is now continuing.”

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, in a national television address, urged the public not to panic and to focus on recovering from the disaster.

“Right now, the situation of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima plant has been stabilizing step by step. The amount of radiation leaks is on the decline,” he said. “But we are not at the stage yet where we can let our guards down.”

Continued aftershocks following the 9.0-magnitude megaquake on March 11 are impeding work on stabilizing the Fukushima plant – the latest a 6.3-magnitude one Tuesday that prompted plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO, to temporarily pull back workers.

Officials from Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said that the cumulative amount of radioactive particles released into the atmosphere since the incident had reached levels that apply to a Level 7 incident. Other factors included damage to the plant’s buildings and accumulated radiation levels for its workers.

“We have refrained from making announcements until we have reliable data,” said NISA spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said. “The announcement is being made now because it became possible to look at and check the accumulated data assessed in two different ways,” he said, referring to measurements from NISA and Japan’s Nuclear Security Council.

NISA and the NSC have been measuring emissions of radioactive iodine-131 and cesium-137, a heavier element with a much longer half-life. Based on an average of their estimates and a formula that converts elements into a common radioactive measure, the equivalent of about 500,000 terabecquerels of radiation from iodine-131 has been released into the atmosphere since the crisis began.

That well exceeds the Level 7 threshold of the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale of “several tens of thousands of terabecquerels” of iodine-131. A terabecquerel equals a trillion becquerels, a measure for radiation emissions.

The government says the Chernobyl incident released 5.2 million terabecquerels into the air – about 10 times that of the Fukushima plant.

If the leaks continue, the amount of radioactivity released in Fukushima could eventually exceed the amount emitted by Chernobyl, a possibility that Naoki Tsunoda, a TEPCO spokesman, said the company considers “extremely low.”

In Chernobyl, in the Ukraine, a reactor exploded on April 26, 1986, spewing a cloud of radiation over much of the Northern Hemisphere. A zone about 19 miles (30 kilometers) around the plant was declared uninhabitable, although some plant workers still live there for short periods and a few hundred other people have returned despite government encouragement to stay away.

In 2005, the Chernobyl Forum – a group comprising the International Atomic Energy Agency and several other U.N. groups – said fewer than 50 deaths could be confirmed as being connected to Chernobyl. It also said the number of radiation-related deaths among the 600,000 people who helped deal with the aftermath of the accident would ultimately be around 4,000.

The U.N. health agency, however, has said about 9,300 people are likely to die of cancers caused by radiation. Some groups, including Greenpeace, have put the numbers 10 times higher.

The Fukushima plant was damaged in a massive tsunami that knocked out cooling systems and backup diesel generators, leading to explosions at three reactors and a fire at a fourth that was undergoing regular maintenance and was empty of fuel.

The magnitude-9.0 earthquake that caused the tsunami immediately stopped the three reactors, but overheated cores and a lack of cooling functions led to further damage.

Engineers have pumped water into the damaged reactors to cool them down, but leaks have resulted in the pooling of tons of contaminated, radioactive water that has prevented workers from conducting further repairs.

A month after the disaster, more than 145,000 people are still living in shelters. The quake and tsunami are believed to have killed more than 25,000 people, but many of those bodies were swept out to sea and more than half of those feared dead are still listed as missing.

Largest Earthquake since 1900 hits Japan

8.9 magnitude on Richter scale caused a 7 feet tall tsunami that hit the pacific coast of Japan

WSJ

The most devastating earthquake to hit Japan in at least 300 years rocked the country on Friday afternoon, triggering a 10-meter tsunami that violently engulfed cars and other objects in its path in northern Japan, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes and setting off tsunami warnings for 53 countries around the world.

Police raised the death toll to 40, with 39 missing, according to the Associated Press, while dozens were injured in a wide range of areas including Miyagi Prefecture and central Tokyo, according to Kyodo News.

The quake, one of the five biggest in history with a magnitude of 8.9, caused mass panic around Tokyo, where workers evacuated their buildings and power was cut off at 4.1 million households in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures. The natural disaster could derail the country’s nascent economic recovery and increase Japan’s already massive public debt, which is 200% of gross domestic product.

A tsunami warning issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii included Japan, Russia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Guam, the Northern Marianas, the Marcus Islands and the Wake Islands, and extended across the Pacific Ocean to include Central and South America. New Zealand also issued a tsunami warning. Austraia said there was no threat of a tsunami on its coast. In Hawaii, a tsunami alert was issued at about 10 p.m. local time.

Near Tokyo Station, the epicenter of the capital city, people were streaming out onto the street, where the only option was to walk—buses and taxis weren’t available and all trains were halted. Cell phone reception was down, causing long lines to snake around pay phones. The country’s ports and airports shut down and car navigation systems indicated that almost every entrypoint to the highway was closed. Children were walking back from school, some with protective head gear. People were huddled around televisions, trying to grasp the extent of the damage in Japan.

“This is the worst quake I’ve ever felt that was based so far away from Tokyo,” said Kiyomi Suzuki, 69 years old, who has lived in the capital city all her life.

“A screen fell off my desk,” said Varun Nayyar, an associate director at UBS Securities Japan, who hastily evacted his building. “I don’t understand why more people weren’t leaving the building. I’m from India, and if an earthquake of this strength had hit there, a lot of buildings would have collapsed.”

As helicopters buzzed overhead, a group of Chinese tourists huddled in front of a gate at the outer moat of the Imperial Palace, in Tokyo’s Otemachi business district.

In Nihonbashi district of central Tokyo district, more than 100 people were waiting for bus services, as subway and other railway services were suspended. “I don’t know how long I will have to spend to go back home,” said a housewife in her 60s, who was standing at the end of the line before the bus stop.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, embroiled in a political funding scandal that could derail his premiership, appeared calm and composed on national television in a blue emergency workers’ outfit. He asked the public to remain calm and said there was no danger of leaked radiation from nuclear plants. “We will secure the safety of the people of Japan and the government Japan will make every effort possible to minimize the damage,” said Mr. Kan.

As mobile phones and landlines remained down in Tokyo, Twitter proved to be one of the best ways to contact loved ones and get updates on the quake.

Unable to use cellphones, many used their smartphones to tune into television broadcasts and find out what had happened.

“It’s very convenient being able to watch live TV when the phones are down,” said Minori Naito, an employee of Royal Bank of Scotland in Tokyo. “Otherwise, we’d have no idea what is going on.”

Getty Images

At 3:24 p.m., a large aftershock struck, which could be felt standing on the ground outside of buildings in central Tokyo. People gasped while looking up at skyscrapers swaying gently and construction cranes shaking violently atop half-completed buildings. Glass panels on the ground floor of many newer buildings shimmied but few appeared to break.

A tsunami warning included Japan, Russia, Taiwan, Guam, the Northern Marianas, the Marcus Islands and the Wake Islands, while 15 nations and territories were covered by a tsunami watch.

The yen and Tokyo stocks fell, while Japanese government bond futures gained. The quake was originally reported at a magnitude of 7.9 but was later upgraded to 8.9, apparently exceeding the 8.8 quake that struck off Chile in February 2010.

In Tokyo, hundreds of concerned office workers tried in vain to make calls on jammed cell phone networks, some wearing hardhats and other protective headgear. Many of them streamed out of buildings in the business district, gathering in open areas. The crowd appeared spooked by the sound of glass windows rattling in tall buildings.

Aftershocks were continuing, with one hitting magnitude 7.1, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Tall buildings swayed violently in central Tokyo as the aftershocks hit.

NHK Television reported that water could be seen rising over cars and pouring into warehouses at Onahama port in Fukushima Prefecture; in Iwate Prefecture a building was washed away, with boats and cars swirling around in the rising waters.  

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