What is the Damage Caused by the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan
On March 11, 2011, Japan was struck by one of the most powerful earthquakes in the history. The earthquake that measured 8.9 on the Richter scale, followed by a giant Tsunami, leveled the entire Pacific coastline of the country. The sheer force of this natural event can be understood by the massive shift in the earth mass (almost 8 feet) around the area. According to an account, over 10,000 people have been feared dead and millions left homeless, without food and water. Eleven, out of the total fifty, nuclear installations in Japan are located in the affected area. Most of them have been shut down and there have been reports of a possible meltdown at Fukushima atomic plant, since Sunday morning. This is, perhaps, the worst tragedy for Japan, hitting at the worst possible time.
Though, at this juncture, it may be premature to put any figure on the exact damage, the initial estimates are alarming. The earthquake and tsunami are likely to cost Japan another $35 billion in what may be the largest rebuilding efforts ever. This is particularly excessive for an economy, which is already struggling with its mounting economic woes. But this is not the end of the story.
Almost 30% of Japan’s power supply comes from its nuclear plants. Apart from the 2 damaged installations, 11 others have been shut down, creating a massive power shortage. The shortfall on this account is expected to continue for some more time and that means switching costs for oil-basedpower generation. Two blasts have already occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi facility in reactors No. 1 and 3. Despite the Japanese Government’s reassurance, its desperate attempt of employing sea water to douse the fuming reactors is raising eyebrows. Some analysts believe that the problem could be more serious as the Government also admitted a possible leakage. If the fuel rods at the reactors begin melting, it will result in the radioactive material being released directly in the atmosphere! Currently, there is no way to estimate the expense of this outcome.
Unlike the 1995 earthquake, the industrial zones have not been directly impacted this time. Nevertheless, all the major industrial activity is currently on a halt. For instance, the shipping industry has been badly hit, especially due to the tsunami and is non-operational. Similarly, the automakers, like Honda, Toyota, and Nissan have shut their plants amidst the fears of further shocks. The earthquake that shook the nation on Friday has had an incredible 405 aftershocks so far, some as powerful as 6.2 on Richter scale. Significant tremors were also felt in Tokyo, which already stands on a vulnerable seismic zone. A fresh wave of tsunami, almost 6 meters high, was reported as a result of the aftershocks, while warning for more has been issued. If the nature’s fury doesn’t end here, there can be more devastation in the coming days.