I’m blogging from an Amtrak train en route from New York City to Washington DC for a series of donor and partner meetings through the weekend. But it has been challenging to stay focused while thinking about my staff, colleagues, and friends throughout the Pacific Rim following last night’s (Eastern time) massive earthquake and resultant tsunami in Japan.
I’m still trying to get word from some folks since my Friday workday here in NYC translates to Saturday early morning in many affected areas. What I currently know is my staff in Fiji are well. Some were evacuated to higher ground overnight but the all clear was sounded and folks advised to return to the coastal areas. Apparently the harbor in the Fijian capital of Suva experienced a mild disruption, but nothing remotely catastrophic.
I have yet to hear from colleagues in Indonesia, but news reports indicate the Indonesian archipelago was spared significant tsunami impacts.
My folks in Hawaii on Maui and the Big Island’s Kailua-Kona coast are safe, but did report higher levels of disturbance along Alii Drive in Kona-town and the Kihei area on Maui. Coastal roads flooded and the harbors looked like a spa tub set on high.
Reports I’m reading on Facebook posts from friends on the Big Island and Oahu are alarming. One report of a house floating in Kealakekua Bay on Hawaii Island and massive debris littering the shores in Honolulu illustrate some of the human and ecosystem impacts from this event.
My friends and colleagues in Japan obviously took the brunt of impacts. This email from a coral reef science colleague in Tokyo paints a surreal image:
“I was at the 9th floor in my office having a meeting and it was so scary. The lower floors had almost no effect but the higher you are, the heavier the shake is. You feel as if you are moving about 50cm to a meter sideways within less than a second for few minutes and you can hardly stand. The tall/heavy shelves just behind me fell down after I escaped from the room just after the earthquake started…. so if my move was a bit late, I could have died or been heavily injured….so scary. Inside office is chaos. Luckily, no one was damaged in our office. All the train system is down so I slept in the office with some of my colleagues. Just woke up in the morning but the train system is not recovered yet and cannot go back home. There were some afterquakes still during midnight but it should be OK here.”
It’s still too early to fully assess the death toll, injuries, and economic impacts from this event. I suspect the statistics will be gut-wrenching in all regards. As appropriate aid responses emerge, I encourage you to contribute in some way to help those nations and communities affected.
If you live in any of the possibly affected areas of the Pacific, it is still prudent to exercise extreme caution when entering coastal waters after a tsunami of this magnitude. Usual tides, currents, and conditions are likely to be disturbed or unpredictable, even if a tsunami watch, alert, or advisory has been lifted. Use common sense.