The Great Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Radiation

The Great Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Radiation
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The Great Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Radiation
Several past events in the world required urgent medical management. Some of the
disasters had large-scale effects while the others went unrecognized by the whole world. On
account of the natural disasters that struck them, the nationals of the concerned countries are still
struggling to recuperate mentally, politically, or emotionally. Taking the case of Japan, it
suffered from a great earthquake that occurred in March 2011 triggering a nuclear catastrophe
and a tsunami that hit its coastal area. It was one of the biggest of its types measuring a
magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale.
However, it is the tsunami which caused most of the destruction in the case. The
northeast of Japan was badly shattered leaving many people dead or missing. People who
survived remained homeless and were evacuated from that area (Matanle, 2011). The disaster
caused failure of several power generators. A nuclear power station risked meltdown that led to
explosions and the leakage of radioactive material. The engineers worked day and night to try to
control the leakage but it was already too late; the radioactive material had been detected in
several places including the seawater.
Literature Review
The Japan earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear emissions accident took place on 11th March
2011 at the local time 14:46 (Matanle, 2011). The earthquake had a magnitude size of 9 and it
covered 100 kilometers distance; in the northwestern part of the Pacific Ocean, the Pacific and
American tectonic plates had collided, thereby causing the earthquake. The natural disaster was
recorded as one of the most powerful hazardous phenomena that hit Japan. In fact, it was one of
the greatest to ever have occurred in the world. Due to the earthquakes upthrust, a tsunami was
generated with a height of about 17 meters. The tsunami swept over the lowland areas that
resulted in flooding of large areas of land. In its wake, it left about 26 million tons of debris. By
June, several agencies had noted down 15,000 deaths, 8,200 missing people, and 5,364 injured
victims. Moreover, around 111,000 buildings got destroyed. The regions that were worst hit were
Miyagi, Fukushima, and Iwate with 9,184, 1,592, and 4524 deaths respectively. The aerial
television displayed the whole town being swept down with serious damages to fishing ports,
commercial zones, residential areas, and industrial areas (Bird & Grossman, 2011).
The tsunami broke the fence of the Okuma nuclear power factory. This led to the knock
out of the power supply and backup generator that was supplying the cooling system. The breach
in the cooling systems led to the nuclear fuel reaction that resulted in pressure build up in
vessels, melt through, and the hydrogen explosion that tore apart the three reactors in the nuclear
plant. The leakage of the radioactive materials was uncontrollable, and it had spread beyond the
plant vicinity (Matsuoka et al., 2012). An evacuation area was marked; later, it was increased by
20 km radius, and the nearby residents were asked to remain indoors. By April, 59,000 people
had moved away from the area, and 39 died during the evacuation process (Yabe et al., 2014).
On 21 April, the 20 km area was declared a no-go zone (World Health Organization [WHO],
Public Health Involvement
The earthquake, tsunami, and the nuclear explosion are estimated to have inflicted a loss
of over $300 billion. This was the world’s greatest and most expensive natural disaster that has
been recorded since 1900. There were also global economic consequences because of Japan’s
significant position in the world’s economy (Bird & Grossman, 2011).
The Ministry of Health participated in the disaster management. Their role was to secure
medical and nursing care. They provided public health services and ensured that the casualties
got safe food and water supplies. The disaster medical assistance teams deployed their medical
team to the disaster-hit areas within 48 hours. The first thing to note is that Japan was ready for
the eventuality because they had learned a lesson from the earthquake that took place in 1993. In
2005, they established a rescue group that would help in disaster management. The response of
the rescue team was prompt, and within 2 days, 15,000 professions were dispatched to Tohoku
zone. Forty-five other medical teams were dispatched to help in the early stages rescue. Despite
the rescue team having promptly arrived, their coordination with the local healthcare staff was
reported to be poor.
Communication and Surveillance
Communication was a major challenge because of the power lines disruption. It caused
confusion in the operations and the handover by the medical team minimizing the effectiveness
of transfer of resources. The medical team concentrated much on providing emergency care
despite some people needing primary and immediate care. The tasks of the medical team were
also limited, and they had no chances of prescribing. Responding to this condition, 678 primary
care medics were dispatched who had no task limitations (WHO, 2013).
Role of Federal Agencies
The Japanese government was dealing with the search and rescue, and they worked
closely with the local leaders whose areas had been affected. Other agencies also committed
resources to help the victims, to assess the destruction, and evacuate residents for providing first
aid to the victims (Bird & Grossman, 2011). However, it was not easy for the federal agencies to
cater to the medical needs of the affected areas. The scientists were responsible for monitoring
the radiations amounts on the daycare center.
A number of people were left disabled by the disaster. During the dispatching of medical
care, these people were neglected. These people were two times likely to lose their lives
compared to those who were healthy (WHO, 2013). A few disabled people were dependent on
home oxygen and therapy; but due to the power disruptions, they suffered for long. In some
affected regions, there was a registration of the disabled people who needed relief in disaster
times. The staff that was in charge was not able to make contact with these people for unknown
Environmental Health Issues
The disaster affected the environment which was the major source of food for the people.
The engineers were not able to contain the leakages from the nuclear plant, and it took them
months to halt the emissions. Radiation showed up in foods, such as vegetables and local milk. It
also appeared in Tokyo’s drinking water. The continuous leakage of the radioactive material into
ocean raised its level above the permissible limit. People who relied on special foods were
exposed to getting more complications; for example the diabetic, hypertensive, and those who
had chronic illnesses. The enforced diet in the camps had high levels of potassium and sodium
that worsened their condition. Diabetic patients were at risk of getting hypoglycemia because
they were given meals at only a few intervals.
Many children suffered from allergy by consuming food provided in the evacuation
camps. In these camps, people were sleeping on the floor, which increased their risk of acquiring
disuse syndrome.
Psychosocial Impact
The people affected by the natural disaster suffered from trauma-related distress. The
younger children and their parents were particularly vulnerable to the onset of mental
disturbances. The psychological problems were influenced by before, during, and after the
event factors. Other non-personal factors were social and cultural. The Japan disaster was
complex, and it created mental trauma to the victims and the rescue team. The number of
published journals indicates that there was an increase in the number of people suffering from
psychological trauma as a result of the disaster (Yabe et al., 2014).
Ethical Considerations
The nuclear disaster raised several issues; one of them being the ethicality of using
nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is a significant energy source that is environmentally friendly
since it does not lead to the greenhouse gasses emission, unlike other conventional energy
sources. On the other hand, nuclear energy is fraught with the danger of high levels of radiations
that are extremely harmful (Matsuoka et al., 2012). As a result, it poses threat to the health of
living beings apart from causing environmental degradation. The ethical principles require
humankind to take a stringent approach to the use of nuclear programs. Strategies that need to be
taken are improving the safety of the nuclear programs, possessing the ability to manage risks,
and fully disclosing the facts by open communication to the public.
In recent years, Japan was rated among the top 30 countries with good governance. The
governance level in Japan is commendable, and with such a model, they can easily prepare to
alleviate the disastrous effects of disasters. It will not be easy to avoid having casualties in
earthquake-hit areas; however, the death toll can be minimized by having a system that is well
Bird, W. A., & Grossman, E. (2011). Chemical Aftermath: Contamination and cleanup following
the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Environmental Health Perspectives, 119(7), a290.
doi: 10.1289/ehp.119-a290
Matanle, P. (2011). The Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown: Towards
the (re) construction of a safe, sustainable, and compassionate society in Japan's
shrinking regions. Local Environment, 16(9), 823-847.
Matsuoka, Y., Nishi, D., Nakaya, N., Sone, T., Noguchi, H., Hamazaki, K., ...Koido, Y. (2012).
Concern over radiation exposure and psychological distress among rescue workers
following the Great East Japan Earthquake Concern over radiation exposure and
distress. BMC Public Health, 12(1), 249.
World Health Organization. (2013). Health risk assessment from the nuclear accident after the
2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami, based on a preliminary dose estimation.
Geneva: World Health Organization.
Yabe, H., Suzuki, Y., Mashiko, H., Nakayama, Y., Hisata, M., Niwa, S. I., ...Abe, M. (2014).
Psychological distress after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima Daiichi
nuclear power plant accident: Results of a mental health and lifestyle survey through the
Fukushima Health Management Survey in FY2011 and FY2012. Fukushima Journal of
Medical Science, 60(1), 57-67.

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