My essay on the importance of emergency planning has been delayed due to unforeseen circumstances.
Fumiya Sekine, age 6, and his mom Kaori Sekine play with his new pets — a pair of stag beetles. The Sekine family was evacuated from their home in Kawauchi village, 20 miles west of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, due to high radiation levels in the village after the 3.11 earthquake and nuclear plant meltdown. They have lived in a one-room “temporary housing center” apartment in Koriyama city since the complex opened in June 2011.
Posted by Michael Forster Rothbart on Tuesday, March 19, 2013
In Ukrainian villages, high fences surround most houses.
Behind each fence is often chained a dog, trained to be
submissive to its masters and vicious to everyone else.
Posted by Michael Forster Rothbart on Monday, March 18, 2013
It’s not hard to learn the current radiation levels across Fukushima Prefecture. You can hear them on the evening news, along with the weather, or read yesterday’s totals in the local paper. Outside many public buildings there are dosimeters showing current readings. (1)
Tomorrow: Chernobyl quiz winners.
Posted by Michael Forster Rothbart on Sunday, March 17, 2013
Posted by Michael Forster Rothbart on Saturday, March 16, 2013
Posted by Michael Forster Rothbart on Friday, March 15, 2013
Students and workers commute to school and work through
Sakaemachi neighborhood in downtown Fukushima City.|
The post-apocalyptic is not immediately obvious in Fukushima City. You may be disappointed but I am not surprised.
Posted by Michael Forster Rothbart on Thursday, March 14, 2013
Almost all the shops are closed in the village of Harimichi, the streets nearly empty. Harimichi (in Towa town, Nihonmatsu district) has not been officially evacuated. It is fifteen miles west of the Fukushima Exclusion Zone. Nevertheless, most residents have left, afraid of radiation. The public school was closed for the year due to suddenly low enrollment.
Many times as I passed through Harimichi, going into the Zone, the gas station was the only business open. I made a point to buy gas there—it seemed the least I could do.
After Chernobyl, the Ukrainian government designated five categories of victims. These classifications are useful in thinking about how differently people experience a nuclear disaster. In Ukraine, each affected group is still entitled to differing amounts of monthly government benefits, based on their perceived exposure:
Any individual’s actual exposure to radiation is unknowable. So for a bureaucracy, these categories serve as a practical but arbitrary way to group victims.
I found these classifications a useful framework for understanding stories from Chernobyl. In Japan I heard the same kinds of stories — like evacuee Kaori Sekine, still living in temporary housing, and farmer Kazuo Nakamura who can’t find anyone to buy his rice.
In later posts I’ll tell more of these personal stories. Tomorrow: life goes on in Fukushima city.
Posted by Michael Forster Rothbart on Wednesday, March 13, 2013
First the earthquake destroyed buildings all over central Japan — over a million buildings collapsed or were damaged (1). But in most places, of course, the damage was disparate, some buildings destroyed while neighbors were fine.
Then, in the next hour, the tsunami wiped out the east coast of central Japan, especially a 420 mile stretch of coastline, up to six miles inland (2). After that, the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown started the first day and continued for a month (or thousands of years, depending on your perspective), most affecting people within 20 miles but extending northwest from the plant in a plume.
Now think of the consequences: loss of life and family, property, community, employment, health, psychological health. Compared to the deaths (18,549 killed or missing) and physical destruction from the tsunami, to some the radiation seems secondary.
But here is the critical issue: when your home gets washed away, the damage you see is immediate and obvious. When you are hit by radiation, the consequences are never so clear. It's all a game of probabilities. How much? How dangerous? How soon will it affect me?
As I saw in Chernobyl, this uncertainty is maddening for survivors of such a disaster, and the answers to many many questions never come.
Tomorrow: different ways radiation affects people.
Sources: (1) National Police Agency of Japan, (2) Bloomberg.
Posted by Michael Forster Rothbart on Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Today I'm thinking of all my friends in Fukushima. Today is the second anniversary of Japan's 3.11 Earthquake and the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
I spent three weeks in Fukushima last year. For the next 2 weeks I will share a photo a day from my new After Fukushima project.
The border of the Evacuation Zone now ranges from 6 to 35 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi, but does not extend as far as the three major cities of the province (marked with nails above, from N to S), Fukushima City, Koriyama and Iwaki, 32 to 50 miles away.
The estimates of evacuees still displaced vary widely, from 150,000 to 300,000, while each of the three major cities have populations of 300,000 or more.
SOURCES: Japan Road Atlas (Shobunsha), Google maps, NY Times, Asahi Shimbun.
Posted by Michael Forster Rothbart on Monday, March 11, 2013
The Susquehanna River, viewed at night from the Route 201 bridge in Vestal, NY, remained well above flood stage 4 days after it flooded in September 2011 following Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
- Some of my photos from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee (published in the book Flood 2011) are in the exhibit Mighty Susquehanna: Friend and Foe, opening at the Vestal Museum (near Binghamton, NY) on March 10, 1-3 pm. Exhibit runs through May 25.
- March 11 is the second anniversary of Japan's 3.11 earthquake. Each day this week I'll post a new Fukushima
photo on my blog and Facebook page.
- My photos from Fukushima will be screened at the University of Hawaii, part of the symposium Japan After 3.11: Change and Hope from the Center of Triple Disasters. March 10, 2 to 4:30 pm at the Center for Korean Studies Auditorium at UH Manoa. Details here.
- My brother Davy premieres his new documentary film Medora this week at SXSW. Screenings March 10, 12, 14. Schedule here.
- Blurb.com invited me to be one of the photographers featured in their new Designer Collection. The release date for my blurb After Chernobyl book is March 13.
- FINALLY, the biggest news I can't tell you yet. Look for an announcement here later this month about my exciting project due out in July.
Posted by Michael Forster Rothbart on Saturday, March 09, 2013