Published on 16 Mar 2011

Five days in Japan: loss and the invisible threat

There is a strange abandon in a reporter confronted with unimaginable human loss and unbelievable invisible threat. The latter is overwhelmed by the former. Anywhere else, to be told there is a real danger of an event that could subject you to harmful radiation would be alarming enough to provoke flight as far from that threat as possible.

But here in Japan the threat recedes into the laundry list of inconveniences (the search for petrol, food and water) that are lost in the face of mangled homes, the scent of death, and the evidence of very great and immediate suffering.

The journey from an 8.9 rated earthquake centred in the sea off north east Japan, through the triggering of a vast tidal wave, to the predictable failure of a man made object that depends on nuclear fission for its business is linear and understandable.

What the brain cannot comprehend is the scale. The thousands upon thousands of lives and loves that ended in one vast shudder at 2.46 pm on 11 March 2011. I have traversed a piece of Japan the size of Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall put together and hugely more populated. The fat strip of suburban and agriculturally settled coastland has been washed clean of both habitation and habitants. In the wake of the lives lived there, there is matchwood, old curtains, mattresses, shattered lavatory bowls, cooking utensils, and car upon car upon car.

Read more in the Channel 4 News Japan special report

The car in a tsunami is a cake tin, a sealed box in which the occupant is bounced at sixty miles per hour on the crest of a ten foot wave, until the bashing and bouncing extinguishes all life within.

The earthquake, felt from Tokyo to the top tip of Japan lasted perhaps twenty, thirty seconds that probably felt like a lifetime. I have felt the aftershocks – rocked from side to side on the seventh floor of a hotel – and wondered, is this it?

But the radiation cloud. The unseen nuclear threat – I can see so much, that I have no brain space left to imagine what I cannot see.  And you imagine what is happening to the 50 men and women still inside the Fukushima power station battling to keep the coolant flowing to prevent total meltdown.

Five days in Japan. Five days that have crashed an economy. Five days that have etched epitaphs on tombstones that will never host the victims they record; epitaphs that will include as victims, Japan’s generating capacity and possibly the very future of nuclear power generation itself. Five days in Japan that define the Japanese identity – resilient, lacking self pity, restrained with its grief, uncomplaining. Five days that define Japanese efficiency, manpower, skill, team work.

By the time I leave tomorrow, I shall have been here all but a week. Despite the tears and the questions “why?” – it has been one of the greatest privileges of my reporting life to be allowed to observe and report what has happened here and transmit it thousands of miles for home consumption.

To those who (mainly) ring to complain “why bother?”…I would say, because we are one connected human race and the more we understand and learn from each others’ strengths and weakness, the better chance we have of pulling together, so to improve the lot of all humanity on our vulnerable and fragile planet.

Tweets by @jonsnowC4

59 reader comments

  1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

    Valid comment about connectedness.

    Jon,this week I have had time to read many comments made about yourself, from your private life to your professional life. It amazes me how jealous and peevish people can be. If it is ‘dog eat dog’ everywhere, then we are all animals together who need to get our constructive heads together and deny spite and competition as a fuel for betterment of humanity.
    Honest reporting ,including how you feel about a situation in your reporting and in your autobiography does not pretend to be selective, for you acknowledge yourself as part of the human race with weaknesses as well as strengths.

    There are obvously aspects ,controlled by broadcasting where self limits and outside limits are imposed , but we as people are not puppets to dance to everybodys tune.

    Japan makes it poignantly clear that we will not have the last word , whoever we are.

    1. Tim H says:

      Journalism is an essential support of our society.
      The Tsunami Diary is a piece of the highest standards of British journalism.

      Congratulations.

    2. KAJB says:

      John Snow, I watched your report and felt the emotion. That you can acheive this in a world of mindless TV drivel is a real triumph. Keep up the good work you do. Ignore the critics, in the words of the prophet, “always look up to the stars, never down at your own shadow”
      KAJB

  2. bnweasel says:

    Jon, your reporting is exemplary for its human connection. Emotion, raw behind the surface, is articulated brilliantly and gives a real sense of what it must be like out there.

    But from the cold comfort of London, I sense this raw emotion is getting the better of you regarding the nuclear issue. Where do terms like ‘radiation cloud’ come from? I haven’t seen any evidence from credible sources that anything of the sort has occurred.

    The nuclear situation must be deeply troubling to you and everyone there. But how many people have died or been seriously injured by gas explosions and related fires since the earthquake? I’d be interested to know if it’s more or less than have been or will be affected by radiation, though the second answer will obviously only come years down the line.

    For everyone’s sake, I hope that it will come to pass that the media, gripped by the moment, will reflect that they hyped up the nuclear issue too much.

    1. margaret brandreth-jones says:

      Perhaps in the explosion there was radioactive material,which appeared on TV as a very visible cloud. Semantics?

    2. Tom Wright says:

      After the worst ever nuclear accident at Chernobyl, only 55 deaths could be traced to the meltdown. Yes, I know Greenpeace put out a report from ’50’ scientists, but it wasn’t a report, rather few of the scientists were consulted before publication – it was in fact as much a work of spin as infamous WMD dodgy dossier.

      Despite the clear information to the contrary from the World Health Organisation, the risk of serious injury or death from radiation is constantly overstated in the media. If Fukushima does melt down it will be bad, but it is not something we should lose sleep over in Britain.

      That pathetic govt reaction that still sees some welsh sheep product banned is nonsensical – the radiation impact of eating one such pork chop every day for a year would be less than having an X ray.

  3. Hamish says:

    Wow Jon, one of your best blogs.

  4. adrian clarke says:

    To those who (mainly) ring to complain “why bother?”…I would say, because we are one connected human race and the more we understand and learn from each others’ strengths and weakness, the better chance we have of pulling together, so to improve the lot of all humanity on our vulnerable and fragile planet.
    That is a powerful reason to justify the reporting.We need to see the effect of “Nature” on our planet and our lives.Even with live pictures it is difficult to comprehend the magnitude of the events in Japan.The fact that there can be a line where calamity stops and life goes on virtually as normal.The professional way that Japan is dealing with its crisis.even down to the battle by a few to avert nuclear disaster.
    My objection to the coverage,not just aimed at channel 4 is the obsession with showing us repeated coverage of the same pieces of destruction.The lurid views of armageddon.The real news is not the destruction, not the threat,albeit there, but the heroic action of the survivors, the emergency services, the small army of nuclear workers fighting to save their country despite the intense risks to their own being.

    1. Moonbeach says:

      Spot on Adrian. I have not written on this subject because reasonable human beings can only be appalled as the story unfolds and feel as Jon does.

      But repetition neither makes it more nor less serious.

      Sad though the story is, our politicians have killed between 200,000 and 1 million innocent men women and children in Iraq and Afghanistan in our name! Far worse than the death toll in Japan.

      The heirs to the warmongers Blair and Brown, Cameron and Haig, look like they are about to repeat the errors of our Governments past by interfering once again in the Middle East.

      What a disappointment Cameron has been; inaction over European human rights legislation, support for homosexual parenting over christian married couples, backtracking on transparency and so on.

      He is morphing into Blair!

    2. adrian clarke says:

      Moon beach as you know i am a right winger, but i totally agree over Cameron.He is as wet as the Liberals and now full of his own importance as was Blair.His stance and back tracking over Europe beggers belief.
      I agree we should not interfere in Africa or the ME , let them sort it out for themselves.Let the Hague issue arrest warrants against Gadaffhi and his generals ,if they believe war crimes have been committed.
      Let the muslims , sunni and shi’ite fight it out between themselves in the ME ,because if we ger involved that could start a third world war.
      You may have noticed i too have not been blogging on this subject of Japan ,for i have said my bit and have nothing to add.

  5. Mike Hoey says:

    Beautiful post John…safe home.

  6. Karen Bridgwater says:

    I think the engineers risking their lives to try and save Fukushima are heroes. We should not forget to thank them and let them know that whatever happens we will be grateful for their courage to keep on working.

  7. Britt_W says:

    As a non journalist here, back at base, I can only be grateful for people like you and the rest of the team who are willing to go there and report back. Channel 4 News’ reports were in a class of their own, as ever. I have had tears running down my cheeks every night since you started. Incredibly strong and moving stuff. Balanced. Real. Important.

    I really DO understand why you bother, why it’s a privilege – and I am happy there are people who want to risk their lives in order to show the world what is happening on the ground, amongst so called ‘ordinary’ people.

    The Japanese people seem to be far from ordinary though. From what I have seen, they are of course in shock by the sheer scale of the multi-disastrous events that have happened to them, but they still seem to manage to stay calm and pragmatic. No time for complaining, just get on with it, ‘the Japanese way’. The workers who are risking their health and lives at the nuclear plant are the ultimate heroes. I wonder what goes on inside their heads… Now there’s a future interview for you… If they survive, that is.
    Welcome back Jon and thank you for another job well done.

  8. ritamay1 says:

    Jon, you and your teams are the best! Terrific coverage and reporting of an otherwise unimaginable situation, and so incredibly unselfish of you all. It is so much more than just doing your job.
    I can’t remember or imagine anything quite like this tragic situation (I’m 71).
    Hope you are all soon safely home, but we will never forget…thankyou.

  9. Neil Craig says:

    Last night Channel 4 “News” broadcast an item from somebody standing in front of a taxi rank in Tokyo who said that the fact that there were taxis there unused (2 of them) proved that residents were staying home, which in turn proved a level of panic.

    My girlfriend, who has been in Japan, said that, because people downsized from Japanese industry, had gone into taxiing there was always a considerable oversupply of taxis. It is not like Britain and in particular London, where licencing regulations keep the numbes artificially below market demand.

    The fact is that nobody has been killed in this “catastrophe”; nobody has been injured; less radioactivity has been absorbed by anybody offsite than would be absorbed from an X-ray, air flight, or probably from eating a banana; far less radioactivity is being emmitted than a conventional coal burning plant would over time (coal contains natural radioactives, like bananas & eveything else). There is no honest journalist or politician who says or implies that nuclear is less than 100s of times safer than conventional power.

    1. Simone says:

      I am thankful to read comments like Tom Wright’s and Neil Craig, who are putting things in perspective, rather than espousing the senseless opposition and fright about nuclear power. Much fewer deaths are caused by nuclear accidents than by coal mine ones. and nobody has talked of closing coal mines.

      [Moonbeam, I have nothing to say about British politics, being American. However, you seem to ignore all those fanatic bombers, who have killed many more than the soldiers have, and continue doing so.And I thought the subject was Japan]

  10. Jim Flavin says:

    The disaster puts into question the siting of future plants and indeed cities . Many of the worlds larget cities are at sea level etc etc – I am sure all this will be gone into .Years ago people knew the dangers of these Tsunamis – and lived higher up – may not be possible due to Services etc and population growth .
    However I too am angry re what is going on – while our eyes are on Japan .This morning on BBC news – it was reported that the Govt intends to introduce legislation whereby students are monitored by their lecturers for signs of Violent Extremism . This is nutty . Soon we will be asked to spy on our neigbours for terrorist activities – Remind one of anything ??. 9/11 was a gift to our Rulers . The main news this year has been ME and now Japan – what a gift to Govermnets . Saudi invasion of Bahrain – how many killed there compared to Japan and the NHS ??, Israel wants to have all ME states adopt a ” code ” – which is very self serving – and it looks lie Ghadaffi is about to crush the Rebels – any captured Rebels , well the best they can hope for is a quick death . Our Leaders have had too much luck in getting away Americanisation – and more .

  11. CWH says:

    As you say Mr Snow we are all connected.

    “”For in the final analysis, our most basic common link, is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s futures, and we are all mortal.””

    John F. Kennedy, Speech at The American University, Washington, D.C., June 10, 1963

  12. Marverde says:

    “…the threat recedes into the laundry list of inconveniences (the search for petrol, food and water)…”

    “When the wind blows”… Remember? The contrast between the small routines of everyday life and the magnitude of the catastrophe. The progress of food and water right up again the ladder of essentials, till breathing air, the first of all needs and now filled with death, stopped all life. It was that quick baring of needs to the core and the inability to comprehend what had happened, that really froze the heart.

    But now it is happening, and once again for real in Japan. We are reliving Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This time the bombs have been provided by nature with a brutal earthquake and a massive tsunami, in the bitter cold of winter, to twist the knife for the survivors. But we have lived on this planet long enough to learn that we are weaker than it and that we recover. Eventually. The shock helps us to focus on the essentials and defers grief, that unavoidable grief that is still to scar several generations.

    But with Fukushima enters man to claim his part in the catastrophe. Perhaps the bigger, we still don’t know.

    The fall out of Fukushima will be fully man-made. Nature bears no responsibility for that. We cannot even claim ignorance, as we knew what could happen. We knew. We had “assessed the risks”.

    Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the list of lessons makes chilling reading… Windscale, Long Island, Chernobyl… but there’s been no progress up the learning curve, not even after Chernobyl.

    We have a duty, not just to our own lives but to the genes we legate, to stop playing with fire like mad arsonists. We no longer build our shelters with asbestos. How can we allow decisions on nuclear power be guided by, or disguised with, “market forces”? Haven’t we seen, aren’t we experiencing, the damage it inflicts on our livelihoods? This time, it is not just our livelihoods, as if world famine could be dismissed with a “just”, but our own lives we risk. And the ones of the next gene carriers.

    We have such good choices to make with renewables… We won’t be able to hide that from the history books.

    Yes, poor Japan.

  13. Pratap Mehta says:

    Jon

    My wife and I have been watching your reporting from Japan. I am afraid you and your news team, including Krishnan, have reduced Channel 4 news on this tragic event to a source of entertainment. Your excited tone and general demeanor made us switch off. Perhaps you and your colleagues and your editor should watch BBC’s George Alagiah’s reporting manner – very much low key and respectful.

  14. Nut-Magnet says:

    In 2007, however, the company announced to the public that an internal investigation had revealed a large number of unreported incidents. These included an unexpected unit criticality in 1978 and additional systematic false reporting, which had not been uncovered during the 2002 inquiry. Along with scandals at other Japanese electric companies, this failure to ensure corporate compliance resulted in strong public criticism of Japan’s electric power industry and the nation’s nuclear energy policy. Again, the company made no effort to identify those responsible.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokyo_Electric_Power_Company#Scandal

  15. Lara Owen says:

    Wonderfully clear and brave reporting from you these past few days, and I have so appreciated it.
    And thank you for writing this:
    “because we are one connected human race and the more we understand and learn from each others’ strengths and weakness, the better chance we have of pulling together, so to improve the lot of all humanity on our vulnerable and fragile planet.”
    It seems so obvious, but is not yet a mainstream given. So we have to keep saying this in whatever ways we have at our disposal. Thank you for all you do to report and to enlighten.

  16. Nut-Magnet says:

    The Nuclear Power Plants in Japan…..

    Both Fukushima plants are owned and operated by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co.).

    On August 29, 2002, the government of Japan revealed that TEPCO was guilty of false reporting in routine governmental inspection of its nuclear plants and systematic concealment of plant safety incidents. All seventeen of its boiling-water reactors were shut down for inspection as a result. TEPCO’s chairman Hiroshi Araki, President Nobuya Minami, Vice-President Toshiaki Enomoto, as well as the advisers Shō Nasu and Gaishi Hiraiwa stepped-down by September 30, 2002.[6] The utility “eventually admitted to two hundred occasions over more than two decades between 1977 and 2002, involving the submission of false technical data to authorities”.[7] Upon taking over leadership responsibilities, TEPCO’s new president issued a public commitment that the company would take all the countermeasures necessary to prevent fraud and restore the nation’s confidence. By the end of 2005, generation at suspended plants had been restarted, with government approval.

  17. tanya spooner says:

    There is a horrible irony in the fact of Japan being the victim of its own nuclear reactor after the horrors of the original nuclear blasts in the second world war. The truth is that nuclear reactors are not, as is often described, “just giant electric Kettles” a term used on the BBC to attempt to mislead a gullible listening public, but harbingers of doom. Everything has now been sacrificed in service of the world economy, and doing everything faster, cheaper and more riskily.
    These power stations, regardless of modern design and endless discussions about their safety, in which the experts profoundly disagree with each other, represent one of humanity’s major mistakes.

  18. Michael Davies says:

    Hi Jon, I have just received some alarming news from a reliable source inside Japan “…nuclear reactors use bundles of enriched uranium packed into stainless steel fuel rods in order to generate the heat that drives the turbines. You need to keep these bundles of pins cool otherwise they melt or burst.

    Now, it seems the Fukushima power plant pulled spent fuel bundles (a collection of fuel rods) and stored them on site rather than shipping them to another location. Speculation is that in addition to the fires that are damaging the working reactor, these storage areas of their spent fuel bundles could [now] be on fire. This vastly compounds the problem of any meltdown, as this spent fuel will add to the contamination [because] it is extremely toxic.

    In other words, as well as dealing with a potential meltdown, you also have the toxic products from the depleted fuel pins adding to the pollution. This is extraordinarily bad. The spent fuel bundles should have been relocated away from the reactor core a long, long time ago. Given the earthquake realities of Japan, these reactor building were basically dirty bombs waiting to be set off by a [natural] disaster.”

  19. byrdele says:

    Jon: “Oh, the humanity!” Without the raw emotion from a very seasoned reporter, we might not remember the lives lost on the Hindenburg. Far fewer lives, granted, but lives nonetheless.

    In light of those words how can people even begin to think “Why bother?” Thank you all for “bothering”.

    You helped us, as far as humanly possible, to “be there” and to be able to cry and pray and reach into our pocketbooks for the humanity of it all.

    Fair winds and good sailing – now and always.

  20. Jim Flavin says:

    And how is Haiti now – and New Orleans – far smaller disaters – but soon forgotten – as this will be . Thats the nature of humans , Fine words – but Human Nature is the same as it has always been . As for JFK s fine words ” we are all connected ” . He did not connect very well with Black USA . His reaction to Martin Luther King was not – How do we Help him and his People – but How do we handle him . As for ” we are all connected ” now – sure Cameron , Obama and the whole crowd of them really worry about the ordinary people – sure they do !.

  21. Rob says:

    Have been transfixed watching the various news channels following the disaster in Japan. Spent much time watching BBC but, on switching to Channel 4 and Jon’s report, found a more humanistic style that somehow (although perhaps a little over emphasised for me) touched the heart of the issue. Watching tonight, the channel 4 report went where others had not reached – true reporting that brought home the true situation and message. True, the female presenter looked as though she was off to the opera with her dangling earrings contrasting strongly with Jon’s neck scarf, but that may show the slightly rough and ready approach of CH4. Keep it up!

  22. platinumveil says:

    Dear Jon, I would like to ask C4 to be more responsible in its reporting. Since the quake I have been in constant contact with my friends in Tokyo and Osaka. The most frustrating thing for us is to work out how much we should really worry and what, if anything, we should do because it is difficult to filter out facts among the media speculation. Moreover, the fear mongering has actually made the situation worse for people in Japan. The media and foreign governments wanting to curry favour with voters have whipped up fears that Japanese officials are playing down an impending “Armageddon”, even though the IAEA, the WHO, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Officer and other international organisations and experts confirmed that their statements appear to be truthful and the steps taken sensible and appropriate. As a result, people in Tokyo are finding it difficult to feed their families due to panic buying and even in Osaka food is becoming scarce. Meanwhile, speculation about the impact on Japan’s economy are pushing the yen even higher than it already was, making Japanese products uncompetitively expensive and therefore making it harder for Japan to recover from this tragedy.

  23. Phil White says:

    Jon, you and the team are doing great work, You and Alex Thomson in particular. C4 News is leading the way with coverage as far as I’m concerned and you should have zero doubt about how much your work is appreciated. I’ve been watching coverage from all over the world including NHK, BBC, CNN, etc and C4 News is by far the best. I know Japan well having spent time there and the human side of the story is required to see the full context so thank you for providing it. Mr Alagiah’s robotic presentation style is not worthy of comment despite a previous post in this thread (by the numbers).
    Keep up the GOOD work!

  24. user2121 says:

    Hello

    at the risk of sounding silly, I was thinking about something, although it may be of no use and has already most likely been suggested, if there are fire Boats (the same type used in oil platform fires or on ship fires) could you not organise to take maybe two large ones, with enough fuel to last a reasonable duration, and possibly a fuel supply boat in tow, run them aground or as close as possible, start the pumps and direct all of the water jets over the buildings and into the damaged portion of the power plant? I imagine that this will achieve the same result as the attempt to supply water by Helicopter….

    There would need to be suitable protective clothing worn by those on the Fire fighting ships, and breathing apparatus, and the general idea would be to load enough fuel to last as long as possible, wedge the boats tight to prevent movement, fix the position of the water hoses by possibly welding the brackets in one fixed direction, start the pumps and then abandon and retreat by way of very fast inflatable boats lowered over the side, those leaving the Fire fighting ships could be met maybe 8 or 10 miles out, transfer onto a waiting ship, sink the small boats to reduce contamination and then be treated/cleaned up on board…

  25. user2121 says:

    I would imagine that once the boats are run in to the edge and the pumps brought on line, it would be wise to run as fast as possible, maybe 15 or 20 minutes maximum before a hasty retreat…
    I was looking at the photographs that I could find on the Internet, and although I have no idea of the size and scale of the site, I was thinking that there must be ships with pumps big enough to give at least some coverage of water over that distance, and it would be a better option than using Helicopters once the pumps get started…

  26. platinumveil says:

    In tonight’s C4 News, you said that the streets of Tokyo are quiet because people stay at home as they are worried about radiation. This may be true for some, especially expats, but many people stay at home or go home early because of power saving. In order to conserve power, there is a reduced service on the Tokyo Metro and JR (rail) networks, which is making commuting difficult, so people avoid traveling into town. They also go to bed early to help conserve power. Similarly, department stores close earlier to conserve power, so there is less people can do after work. I would also like to point out that it is currently hayfever season and Japanese people routinely wear face masks at this time of year to protect against pollen. This may look freakish to western eyes, but is completely normal in Japan and doesn’t mean that they are worried about radiation. These are just a few things I noticed in recent media reports. Today, the WHO urged governments and individuals to stop spreading rumours about radiation; I doubt they would do this to help the Japanese goverment cover up a nuclear catastrophe. Thank you very much for listening (sorry, this didn’t all fit into a single post).

  27. byrdele says:

    Hello, Jim F.

    Eyes have been on mostly Japan because in mere seconds tens upon tens of thousands were wiped out within seconds. We put ourselves in their place – what if my child was taken from this earth in the blink of an eye? As you said, many tend to forget as time goes on and we do not hear much about Haiti or New Orleans. But when the press is gone the work continues. See http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/28/us/28katrina.html from the New York Times online and regarding Haiti http://www.maf.org/news/maf-news/maf-work-vital-to-ongoing-relief-rebuilding-effort-in-haiti and http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/learn/haiti-update-ongoing-efforts?Open&lpos=ctr_img_ongoingEfforts. So not everyone forgets, thank goodness. I respect your right to your opinion, but even though Kennedy was not a saint in love with Martin Luther King, the quote itself had/has meaning. The Chan4 team is a team with a heart.

  28. Neil Craig says:

    Good post Platinumwell – this is indeed a false scare story beinmg hyped by the media because the ignorant have been prepared to treat anything nuclear the way medieval people treated withcraft.

  29. Loopico says:

    Great blog, Jon but also valid points, Platinumveil. My friend in Japan has sent me diary entries since it began. Today (via my website):

    Can’t email, problems with electricity cuts.

    My Thursday (so far)

    Japan Earthquake Info – Updated Mar 17, 4:45PM

    Important – NON scheduled blackout may occur tonight.Due to cold weather and high usage of power, NON schedule blackouts in may occur in Tokyo area today.

    We are having trouble completing our work on schedule, so are talking about trying to sleep through the power cuts and work through the night.

    Milk limited to 1L per person today – so I went to two supermarkets and got two. There was rice on sale! Surprised. But very expensive (the price had not gone up – it was premium rice). Noodles on the shelf. Bought lots.

    Nearby petrol station open! Queue of about 200 vehicles – when then caused a major traffic jam. Did not bother to join queue.

    Radiation above Maebashi at 100x normal, now down to 10x (which is safe). Annoyed with the electricity company – and the Safety Agency who gave them the go ahead despite constant lies.

    All cashpoints closed. Wrapped ourselves in blankets, but still got cold.

    No earthquakes today.

  30. Paul Edwards says:

    Jon

    It is difficult to put into words the impact the quality of reporting by you and your colleagues has had upon myself and friends.

    Truly professional.

  31. Paul Smyth says:

    Jon,

    if you get a chance is it worth asking the Japanese authorities whether firefighting ships would be of use at the nuclear site. It seems the fuel rod bilding isn’t a long way from the waters edge… Some ships used for rig fires might have much greater hydrants and water dowsing capabilities than fire tenders. Thanks

  32. Mudplugger says:

    We are indeed ‘one connected human race’ but what the events of Japan throw into sharp focus is the delicately connected balance of our modern societies. It’s basically a house of cards and, when only one card is compromised, the whole edifice starts to crash down.

    And, in the particular case of Japan, it’s a world-wide linkage – if the Japanese factories cannot sustain their famed just-in-time processes, then their ‘transplant’ factories around the world (such as Toyota, Honda and Nissan car plants in the UK) will soon run short of key components, leading to shut-downs here too, which leads to lay-offs, meaning their workers have less cash to spend in UK shops and restaurants, and so the downward spiral continues.

    We are all so intimately yet remotely connected, commercially as well as humanly, that we will all feel the pain in so many different ways. We may not have seen our houses washed away or been evacuated or lost our loved ones as so many of the tragic Japanese have but, as the world is now such a small place, that mythical beating of a bee’s wing across the planet does now indeed create waves around the full 360 degrees.

  33. Lay says:

    Hi Jon, I am just a normal burmese refugee who is living in the UK.
    Can I ask that isn’t it possible to get the sea water with the pump and constantly pour from the long ladder fire engines (if they are available and alright o get there) onto the Fukushima Daiichi power plant rather than occasionally using the helicoptes. I could see the water pumps-cars which used for demonstrators from nearby so I hope the fire engines with long ladders could o there too.
    Another solution might be using Nitrogen to freeze (I don’t know how it will react when it reach to the boiling water and nuclear rods).
    Or using fire-engines from the boats. Obviously, the people who goes there will have to have as much protection as possible.
    I don’t know.
    Just ideas by watching and feeling powerless.

  34. hippo says:

    It is very detailed information about radiation level in Japan. It reveals that Tokyo is now very safety area os far. use it for your health if you like.

    http://notice.yahoo.co.jp/emg/en/archives/np_jp.html

  35. Kevin says:

    The worst case scenario that the engineers are working to prevent, the meltdown of the cores of the first 3 reactors, is that the cores will be too damaged to be able to reactivate them. It is not that “radioactive clouds” will be released to kill and sicken an already struggling population. The sensationalism and fear-mongering surrounding the problems with the reactors (more-so a problem with other news outlets, tabloids especially) is going to do nothing constructive, it merely overshadows the only real tragedy here.
    The radiation release so far, and that may be released in the future, is so low that only sensitive scientific equipment could detect it, too low to have any significant health impact, even on those working in the plant to prevent further problems.

  36. Atsuko I says:

    Jon snow describes the Japanese identity as resilient, lacking self pity, restrained with its grief, uncomplaining.
    I think that Britons have the same traits.

    1. Lewis Peake says:

      50 years ago perhaps.

  37. Neil Craig says:

    This is Dr Jerry Pournelle – “In fact the situation is slowly coming under control. Fukushima Daiichi sits on the coast amidst a scene of almost unimaginable destruction, in freezing weather, with high winds. Every road, water pipe, and power line is gone. Debris litters the passageways to the plant. Fukushima Daiichi was protected by a 20 foot sea wall. Most of the surrounding countryside wasn’t protected by a sea wall at all.

    And there we are. The good news is that the wind is blowing the results out to sea. The bad news is that a plume hundreds of miles long develops and in that plume are detectable — not dangerous but detectable — levels of radiation, and out there away from the destruction, not hampered by the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami, are a lot of news people desperate for a story, and — Detectible soon becomes potentially dangerous levels, and it’s hundreds and hundreds of miles, and a Union of Concerned Scientists expert will now tell you about it all.”

    Why can’t allegedly professional journalists give the facts like this rather than mood and scaremongering.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Why can’t allegedly professional journalists give the facts like this rather than mood and scaremongering.

      My point exactly Neil.That is the reason i do not commend channel 4’s coverage , and as it is the only news i watch , do not compare.
      News is no longer accurate news.It is either voyeurism as has been said earlier or it is doom laden scaremongering .A perfect example last night where tristan gave prominence to an alleged nuclear expert over the recognised expert.Sounded a bit like the global warming debate!!!!!!

    2. Saltaire Sam says:

      Unteresting how many Japanese people have shown their appreciation of the C4News coverage. They seem to think it has been balanced and not at all intrusive.

      It’s a fine balance but to my mind it has been brilliant and should win all the awards going.

  38. Moonbeach says:

    I was due to play soccer in Germany the day after the Chernobyl disaster. The Germans banned all sports and advised everyone to stay indoors.

    The radiation levels peaked at a value less than the background levels found in the Lake District!

    The problem with Nuclear power is the word Nuclear which seems to send those who know nothing about it into blind panic.

    A 1000 times increase in levels is still tiny because the ambient levels are miniscule.

    Let’s have a few numbers, including all of the zeros after the decimal point, associated with reports.

  39. Greg Dance says:

    There is a question that no one is asking at the moment.
    Why were we told that Japan will be experiencing planned power blackouts because of a shortage of electricity just because 1 power station is off line?
    This is rubbish, they must have more spare capacity than that.

    So either there is a much wider scale of damage possibly to other nuclear stations, and/or the infrastructure that delivers the power is damaged. (unlikely)

    Nuclear power was born under secrecy and deception by Britain and the US when they might have justified those conditions because of the threat from the USSR, this is no more yet the secrecy and deceptive ways persist.
    Nuclear can never be widely trusted while this persists, and the danger to its credibility is so high when the facilities worldwide are misused by the operators or not decommissioned on schedule as has been so at Fukushima.

    1. Mudplugger says:

      One of the key issues with any national electricity grid is the balancing of the locations of supply (power stations) and of demand (cities, factories etc.). Electricity is not like water or gas where, as long as you maintain the pressure in a network, it will get to where you want it. Transmission losses and capacity limits mean that it is not feasible simply to ramp up other power stations’ outputs to compensate because the grid cannot then distribute it over the greater distances.

      This is a key problem for the UK with developing remote sources of so-called ‘green’ power in windy or tidal places, most of which are very distant from the centres of demand – the huge price of this ‘oncost’ will never be fully accounted due to the malign influence of the ‘green lobby’ – a hidden eco-penalty.

      It will take Japan’s grid many years to recover fully and to reconfigure its design to accommodate replacement power sources in locations which can align with their demand profile (and ideally to build in more contingency for next time, as there surely will be a next time). This lengthy timescale will be the most enduring legacy of this composite earthquake/tsunami/nuclear event.

  40. Marcus says:

    I did write to the Japan Embassy but no reply so presume they got the message.

    As in New York in 9/11 when power/water failed they used tug boats with hoses connected to the water cannon on board. This can happen here, tie tug boats alongside, set the hoses, fix the hoses so they do not need manning and then abandon, the tug boats can run for days on full diesel/heavy oil bunkers and can then just be refueled when required.

    This would take 30 minutes at most to deploy and then everyone can get out, no need to have firemen on shifts doing the same job risking their lives. There are tugboats available in Chiba right now…

  41. Neil Craig says:

    Greg it may well be that a lot of their conventional coal and gas generators were shut down as well – earthquakes and Tsunami’s may do that – but that isn’t newsworthy.

  42. riley says:

    Pity Snow never repoertded int eh file din the aftermath of the bOxing day tsumnai;
    He;’d of had a yardstuick for comparison

    Perhpas Alex Thmopson can post soemthing along these lines; though he’s not as dishy as Mr Snow

  43. linda64 says:

    Currently watching your Tsunami Diary (Ch4 Sunday 6.30). At last I feel I have a true sense of the scale of the tragedy, in all respects. Your perspective also gives insight into modern Japan and the dignity of the courageous Japanese people. Thank you

  44. Saltaire Sam says:

    Just watch your Tsunami Diary, Jon. Very moving. Great empathetic reporting, giving a glimpse of the moral dilemma faced by journalists.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      I was very disappointed in it Saltaire.Half an hours repeat of what we had seen all week .
      Tonights report from Japan was a vast improvement .Motivational , full of hope and showing the quite efficient way the Japanese are starting to go about their recovery.

  45. Rachelle Sherwood says:

    All this talk about the nuclear situation everyone seems to have forgotten about
    the Japanese quake/tsunami survivors.

    Zillions were raised on Comic Relief this weekend but not a word said about helping the Japanese victims.

    Some have said Japan is wealthy so why bother. But you only need look at the Channel Four Japan news reports to understand that Japan really is having trouble getting help out to the people who need it most.

    It’s been 9 days and now there are quake/tsunami survivors dying in the evacuation centers from lack of heating or blankets. They don’t have enough food & water.

    I used to live in Japan and know that they’re not used to charity because each Japanese is taught from a very small age that you should never “burden” others. This is why they have great difficulty asking for help. Saying that, the people would gratefully welcome any help that comes to them.

    What they need is practical ‘on the ground’ help. The country is simply overwhelmed. Wouldn’t yours be if this happened to your homeland?

    Save The Children” went in quickly and are having an immediate impact in the quake struck areas. We need many more like them. Groups & individuals.

  46. Neil Craig says:

    “Unteresting how many Japanese people have shown their appreciation of the C4News coverage …brilliant and should win all the awards going.”

    Not being in Japan I couldn’t say Sam – are you Japanese?

    I did mention earlier how my girlfriend, who has been there said the coverage was misleadingly using piccures of a taxi queue to give a false impression of fear and platinumveil mentioned other such and said his friends in Japan, who he had contacted, did not appreciate the hysteria and falsity in western media coverage.

  47. Yasushi Uchiyamada says:

    Jon, I started to watch the C4News in 1989 in UK. Now I watch it in Japan thanks to the web.

    The coverage of the events by you and Alex has made me feel and think various things at once, all half-baked. I am still struggling to understand the emerging and enchained events. It was a great job done by a journalist in the field in five days.

    As an anthropologist I work in a different time scale. But I share with you the passion that brought you to the place. At times you are combative when interviewing politicians and officials. This time I saw you trying to resonate with the ordinary people. Although this sounds banal, it is worth doing. I appreciate your coverage greatly.

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