A friend’s first-hand account of the disaster in Japan

Let me share Pavel Shermanau’s first-hand account of the earthquake in Japan, and the resulting disastrous events that followed, namely the tsunami in Sendai and possible nuclear leakage in Fukushima. Pavel and I went to graduate school together in Freiburg, Germany. He is originally from Minsk in Belarus, a couple of hundred kilometers from Chernobyl, where he studied environmental chemistry. He is now doing an internship at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in Kanagawa, Japan. His geographical and professional background perhaps adds more weight to his assessment of the situation.

He originally wrote this on his notes on Facebook. It’s raw, touching and heart-breaking.

I think only now I can reflect on what have been happening here. Before that I don’t want to talk much, have been watching TV for two days which put me in a deep deep depression and sorrow. Ok, first of all my experience:

On Friday 3 p.m. I was in the office and about for 2-3 min there was a quake, a half an hour later – another one. It was shaky, a bit scary, I went off the building, but everything was fine. Then the mobile network was collapsed, nobody can make a call to spouses and relatives. But the internet was working. By the way, I am about 350-450 km south from epicenter, the office is at 500m high above the sea level, and 270 km from Fukushima nuclear plant. Then from the internet we found out that all trains were stopped and there are some cuts of electricity in a neighborhood. So, our colleagues stayed at the office (who live in the closest towns). At 18.00 I went home knowing that I have electricity, but then I found out there is no internet and TV.

At that moment, it is seemed no big worries, the earthquake was ok. But during a night I felt two more earthquakes and woke up around 6 a.m. TV was on, and I started to watch TV. Well, I can’t explain properly, but when I had a warm shower on the morning I can’t believe that somebody is dead next to me, I can’t imagine how some people stayed 2 nights in the suffered areas and it was very cold at night. On the morning I went to the office and checked English news.

So, the main conclusions are:

The most suffered area is around Sendai city (the sister city of Minsk), because of tsunami, but not the earthquake. It reached the shoreline in 20 min. On the south, Tokyo and rest of Japan it is seemed to be ok. Also, one dam was destroyed and water made many many troubles. Some oil and gas storages were on fire, but now it is over. So, the devastating destruction was brought with tsunami. Now we will face times to making a recovery for those areas, it will take a lot lot of resources. Many people now without anything, sleeping on a floor at some shelters, and I don’t want to talk how many people died. My Czech colleague said if it happens in Czech Rep. everything would be destroyed. Thanks God to Japanese engineers and people, they are well prepared.

Another important point is the explosion at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. FUCK! The main problem is the absence of clear information. Obviously there is a leakage. You might know that there is no protection from radiation only distance. I checked a direction of winds, it is to the ocean, but Russians said they will expect a cloud within one day. Well, about authorities – I simply don’t trust them. They are saying everything is ok, but they shifted the evacuation area from 10km to 20km. So, only one thing that I can do is to buy some seaweed which contains Iodine (radioactive isotope I expect in 7-8 days) and a bottle of a red vine (it is believed it helps as well – to feel more positive, I guess, rather than for some serious medication purpose.).

One more piece of experience, I was watching TV, and there were FLASH news on – a new quake – and in a second I feel it by myself without any TV news…

I am typing this text and am feeling a new quake…

I am good, the weather is amazing, everybody expected a cherry blossom time, a spring time, but now this spring is seemed to be a bit silent…

P.S. The supermarkets are half empty, no milk, big lines at gasoline stations.

P.P.S. Thank you all, guys.


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