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On Friday 11 March 2011, triple tragedy struck Japan.

A magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck 130km off the east coast of Japan in Tohoku at 2.46pm (local time), the most powerful earthquake to ever hit Japan. The intensity of the earthquake created a devastating tsunami that struck the east coast of Japan minutes after the earthquake. The tsunami was the worst-ever recorded since the 2004 Aceh earthquake and tsunami, reaching up to 10m in height and affecting as far as 10km inland. Places located in Tohoku region bore the brunt of most of the immediate damage from the earthquake and tsunami, with villages oblierated and the largest city in the area Sendai almost completely destroyed. The lives lost now number into the thousands, with another ten thousand still missing and millions affected somehow or another by the earthquake due to losing kin, damaged houses or lack of electricity and water supply.

Immediately, nuclear power plants located in the region were shut down, as the earthquake and tsunami destroyed part of the facilities at several nuclear power plants such as in Fukushima I & II. The cooling systems for the nuclear plants broke down, leading to a nuclear crisis as overheated radioactive material in the reactors threatened to explode and spread across Japan and the region. Residents living within a 30-40km radius of the Fukushima nuclear plants were evacuated for safety reasons as higher-than-usual emissions of radiation were detected in the places around the nuclear plant. Multiple small explosions took place over several days following the earthquake as Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)'s engineers tried to keep the situation under control and prevent a complete nuclear meltdown.

Almost the whole of Japan has crawled to a standstill as a result of the triple tragedy, as water & electricity supplies and telecommunication lines were cut and trains stopped moving. There has been ramifications in the economy as well, as the stock exchange of Japan plunged tremendously and trade affected by the closure of factories and disruption in goods-and-services delivery.

However, there has been some positive signs in Japan amidst all the bad news. Despite the severity of the tragedy, civil society did not disintegrate, as people rushed to help one another even if they were themselves just as badly affected by the tragedy. Rescue efforts move ahead at full steam despite delivery of emergency supplies being affected. Heroes in the Japanese government have also emerged as these people try to keep the country moving along, spearheading rescue and recovery efforts as Japan tries to get back on its feet. Will it take this tragedy to wake the politicians of Japan up from their slumber and bickering?

Singapore is also doing its part to help Japan, by sending Civil Defence officers to ground zero to assist in recovery efforts. As much as Japan is a developed country, other countries are coming in to assist and help the country tide over this triple whammy. The spirit of cooperation has been evident as even its arch-rival China has volunteered to help Japan with disaster relief. Will this dark cloud of a disaster have a silver lining, in the reconciliation of Japan and China?

We pray for the swift recovery of Japan.


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Other Good Resources
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eqinthenews/2011/usc0001xgp/#details - Geological details of earthquake
http://www.nytimes.com/packages/flash/newsgraphics/2011/0311-japan-earthquake-map/index.html - Interactive map of disaster
http://allthingsnuclear.org/tagged/Japan_nuclear - Japan's nuclear disaster
http://www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/nuclear_power_risk/safety/clarifying-japans-nuclear-disaster.html - Terms referring to the nuclear disaster