Sunrise from our apartment

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Earthquake - March 11, 2011

About 45 minutes after arriving back at the Yokosuka Navy Base from our previous post we felt the trembling from an earthquake--2:45 PM. We had heard before our mission that Japan had a lot of earthquakes but had only felt a few very minor tremors in the 5 1/2 months since we arrived. This one lasted about four minutes and the car was rocking in the parking lot but everyone could keep their footing as the ground shook. Nothing fell off the shelves or walls of John and Lora Lund's home where we were staying. After watching the news though, we soon discovered it was much more severe than we had first thought. We followed the news on the Armed Forces Network as well as the Japanese networks and watching the tsunami hit the Sendai area. There were also explosions at a storage facility and refinery for gas in the neighboring Chiba prefecture. The area of the Earthquake is about 200 miles northeast of Yokota Air Force Base. Since we were at Yokosuka for the weekend we felt a few more of the aftershocks that those up at Yokota.

I mentioned previously that we had attended a 3-zone conference in Yokohama on Thursday, March 10th. We were supposed to be at the 3-zone conference at the Mission Home with the missionaries from the Musashino, Tokyo and Chiba Zones on Friday, March 11th. This conference had just finished with their closing prayer when the earthquake hit. Therefore, all of the missionaries in the hardest hit areas of the mission were all safe and accounted for at the mission home (except for us, but we were safe at the Navy base). These 3-zone conferences had been scheduled for the following week but at the first of the month President Albrecht decided to move them up one week. It will be interesting to hear why he felt impressed to make that change. The mission just north of ours--the Sendai mission--is located closest to the epicenter. For quite some time no one was able to locate these missionaries but it turns out that they too were all together at a zone conference and were able to be together at a fire station. As of today, Wednesday March 16th they are still in the same clothes they had on since Friday, but they are all safe. Another mission in the north, the Sapporo mission, has a similar story. All of the missionaries were attending a zone conference when the quake hit. We are calling this the Japanese Missionary Miracle.

We stayed in Yokosuka for the weekend and attended church meetings Sunday morning. We all had to smile when cell phones went off during Sunday School issuing an earthquake alert and then feeling the 8 story office building where they hold church meetings sway and tremble a bit. After church we felt we were leaving the Garden of Eden and going out into the Lone and Dreary World to go back to Fussa and Yokota Air Force base. We took the country route home along the Sea of Japan and straight up inland instead of traveling on the crowded highway with many ramps, bridges and elevated roads that we usually take. It was a beautiful day for a drive and people were out on their surfboards and walking along the beaches. Inland the only differences we saw were lines forming at the gas stations.

We arrived in Fussa to find our apartment intact with nothing fallen or damaged. On Monday we went to the commissary to pick up some extra water. Last month Sister Arnell felt it important to talk to her children about getting prepared for upcoming events and to get a 3 month supply of food and water. Taking her advice we had purchased $200 worth of canned goods and food to stock our shelves. Therefore we didn't have to buy much on this trip. The shelves were still fully stocked but every grocery cart was in use at the Commissary. There is fuel available at Yokota with no limitations. When we left Yokosuka on Sunday they had imposed a 10 gallon limit with the price being $3.31/gallon. Out in Japan they have imposed a 5 gallon limit at 144 Yen per liter. Right now the exchange rate is $.80 to 100 Yen. On Tuesday, March 14th Yokosuka Navy Base and Zama Army base was out of fuel for personal vehicles.

We follow the earthquakes at a site on the internet - Earthquakes in the last seven days - just to see what is happening. The picture at the top of this post shows how many quakes hit the area in 2 1/2 days after the first one hit.
Along with the Earthquake and tsunami damage is the problem with some nuclear reactors in the area having some explosions and leaking radiation. Since we have connections with personnel at the Air Force and Navy bases as well as family members who work in the industry in the States we have been able to discern what is truth verses sensationalism with what is being reported on TV and the Internet.

Utilities are being rationed because of the refinery fire as well as the nuclear issues. There are three-hour blackouts of all electricity and water usage. The first day--Monday, March 14th it was scheduled for 12:30 - 3:30 PM. We figured--well, we might as well take a nap!! It didn't happen though. Tuesday's blackout was scheduled from 6:30 AM - 9:30 AM. A little more tricky. Sister Arnell is an early riser but not so for Elder Arnell. We did get up by 5:00 AM and showered and had breakfast. At 6:00 AM we heard announcements made from loud speakers but since we can't understand the language we have no idea what they are saying. For all we know they could be saying "Tsunami coming-get to higher ground!!" and we would just be sitting in our apartment posting on Facebook or whatever. Anyway, 6:30 AM came around and we still had power. We have discovered these blackouts are scheduled as needed and if people are conserving energy on their own it isn't necessary to force a shutdown of power. The Japanese people are very courteous of others around them. There has been no issues of looting or panic. Even in downtown Tokyo on the first day when millions of people were left stranded in the city because all of the trains were taken down, people stood quietly in lines and accepted the donated Snickers bars and toilet paper while waiting for buses to come to take them out of town. The major train station next to our apartment in Fussa has been closed along with half of the normal rail traffic in the country to conserve resources. Many factories and businesses are closed because people can't get to work and also to conserve utilities. We anticipate the trickle down effect to the economy when people aren't getting paid to work and therefore are not shopping--even if there were food on the shelves. I mentioned that we had food and fuel on the base but it is not the same out in town.

Before going to bed on Wednesday night at 10:30 PM we felt another strong earthquake. We turned on the TV and the English translated Internet channel to find out that this quake was actually in the south just 30 KM from Yokosuka base near Mt. Fuji instead of where all of the previous quakes had been happening. We thought--"Great. That's all we need, a volcano to add to the trifecta of events." So far that was the only quake in that area, so far.


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