Frank Davis

Banging on about the Smoking Ban

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It's been one of those days when you turn on the box and find yourself caught up in an unfolding drama. I've been watching footage of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster. It's astonishing that I've been able to see it within hours of it being shot.

Particularly arresting was the Al Jazeera video clip below (there's a similar clip in the Guardian), which shows the tsunami in Kamaishi city docks. There's an astonishing amount happening in it.

It was only after I'd watched it four or five times that I realised that the water level in the harbour was rising. At 26 seconds in, the water is several feet below a large Japanese sign beneath the windows on the white building. At 57 seconds in, it's reached the top of the window. So it's risen something like 15 feet in 30 seconds. And already at 26 seconds it looks like it's already 10 feet above ground level.

The same speed is apparent on the elevated roadway, which slopes down towards ground level in the distance. At 30 seconds you can see a couple of vehicles driving up this slope towards the camera. By 53 seconds, that slope has been covered in water. At 57 seconds, it's risen almost to the top of the slope, and white water is visble behind a couple of trucks stopped at the top.

What the hell was any traffic doing on this road anyway, driving along the waterfront? What the hell were the two cars doing driving through puddles of water at ground level underneath the elevated road, visible at 22 seconds? The tsunami took about an hour to get to the east coast of Japan after the earthquake. So why hadn't low-lying coast roads been closed, and traffic directed away from the waterfront?

Did those two drivers survive? There was already quite a lot of water on the road, and it was rising. Chances are that a few hundred yards further on they could have found the water was impassable. And there would have been no escape.

There's really quite a lot of traffic on these roads, it seems. And given the rate at which the water was rising, it seems entirely plausible that dozens of cars and trucks got caught, and never got out. There might have been 100 people drowning in their cars on the streets of Kamaishi by the 57 second mark.

And that doesn't count the pedestrians who were on the streets, or on the ground or first floors of buildings. There could easily have been another 100 of them. Or more. After all, if car and truck drivers were cheerfully driving along the front, and were even standing on the elevated road gawping at it all, then it's very likely that shoppers and shopkeepers and dock workers and boat crews didn't think there was much danger either.

The more I looked at this scene, the more likely it seemed to me that, just in the camera field of vision, a few hundred people could have lost their lives. In the whole of Kamaishi, which has a population of 40,000 or so, maybe 1000 people were caught.

And quite needlessly, it would seem. They had a whole hour to clear the lowest-lying ground. It's not as if they don't know about tsunamis. It's a Japanese word, after all.

But as I write, the death toll in the whole of Japan is set at just 1000. Since Kamaishi is just one town among hundreds all along the eastern Japanese seaboard, the actual death toll looks to me more likely to be more like 100,000.

And then, apart from all the lives lost, there's the damage. Hundreds of thousands of smashed cars and trucks and boats. Tens of thousands of houses swept away. Roads feet deep in mud and detritus. All the drains will be blocked. Most of the power will be out. A lot of people will be homeless. All damage done just by the tsunami, not the earthquake.

See also this for a terrifying 9 minute amateur video.

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You're an insensitive fucking idiot. I've been here many times, it's a small, rural town that has been devastated by a natural disaster that happened with little or no warning. How long did it take you to write this long criticism of people living there who have probably lost their children? I hope some day a giant wave comes and washes your whole town away and fat idiots sit on the internet and dissect your reaction. You're an idiot.

You need to spend more time learning to read and comprehend.

"this long criticism of people living there who have probably lost their children?"

Anonymous, you seem to be able to write but not
to be able to read. What school did you go to? I do not understand how this is possible. How is it possible to be able to write but not be able to read or was it a long day for you?

I must say that I agree with Rich and Fredrik.

I was asking why the coast road and low-lying areas hadn't been closed.

happened with little or no warning

They had an hour or more between the earthquake and the resultant tsunami's arrival. I'm astonished that those waterfront roads hadn't been closed.

But I can think of one plausible explanation. Perhaps the roads were closed. But when any road is closed, there'll always be some traffic on it already, and it'll take a while for that to clear. And maybe that's what we're seeing in this video - all the cars and trucks that were on the road before the lights turned red and the plastic bollards sealed the entries and the police roadblocks went up. If the tsunami had hit half and hour later, maybe the roads would've been clear by then.


Anonymous in reply to Anonymous:

The first, very noticeable, thing - writing anonymously allows for greater freedom of expression?

The first Anonymous does point out something inherent in human nature - if warned regularly and repeatedly about a form of danger as a means of "safety drill", these warnings will simply be ignored after a brief period of time. We do not need to go back to WW2 - take the weekly fire drill in some public buildings, for instance. God help the people in this building should there be a real fire on the set day and time of the drill. It will simply be ignored.

The second Anonymous, albeit somewhat impolite, points out the human cost of natural disasters.
This is right - but what appears to be a most worrying aspect is that the human race is rapidly losing the ability of assessing danger; aren't we striving to eliminate ANY (fictional/non-fictional) danger from our lives?

As for people running towards the wave, then away, I read that in San Diego or somewhere, quite a few people went to the beaches with their children to see the tsunami. The guy who got swept away had gone to get some photos, apparently.

This is a prime example of what happens. And it is happening more and more.


Btw: didn't the WHO issue a statement that the release of radioactive steam into the local environment of Fukushima was "safe"? This isn't the same WHO, by any chance, who appears to be worried about the display of cigarette packets in shops........ ?????????

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