Reuters blog archive
By Mohamed A. El-Erian
The opinions expressed are his own.
The check in for my flight from London to Tokyo confirmed that this was not a normal business trip. With a sympathetic smile, I was given a leaflet informing me that my non-stop journey would, in fact, be making a stop-in Korea, for a crew change as the airline company was minimizing the time spent by its staff on the ground in Japan. I was also informed that only three other people had checked in for the business class cabin; and that the crew could well outnumber the passengers there.
The arrival at Narita airport was equally unusual. A whole set of typically busy passport control booths was shut. The other was processing very few passengers, and virtually no foreigners. I went through quickly and was met by a taxi driver who immediately apologized for the lack of heating in the airport terminal. "We are saving electricity," he explained.
As unusual as all this was, none of it prepared me for what I heard from colleagues in our Tokyo office. Stories of courage were mixed with sadness within a range of personal and family ordeals -- all experienced during, and in the aftermath of the terrible earthquake, devastating tsunami and nuclear crisis.
I marveled at the way our amazing operational team, shortly after evacuating the building, found the courage to go back in and climb 18 floors to make sure that the valuations of the Japanese mutual funds were properly struck on the day of the earthquake. I gasped at the mother who, faced with a disrupted transportation system, walked for six hours to be re-united with her kids at home. And then there were those who, for a few terrifying minutes when the building "not just shook but danced," were caught paralyzed in the corridor while drawers flew open and various things crashed around them.
from Reuters Investigates:
Kevin Krolicki has another alarming special report from Japan today challenging the assertion that the disaster facing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was beyond expections.
The report quotes Tokyo Electric's own researchers who did a study in 2007 on the risk of tsunamis:
from Global News Journal:
The consensus view in Germany is that Angela Merkel's abrupt reversal on nuclear energy after Fukushima was a transparent ploy to shore up support in an important state election in Baden-Wuerttemberg. If indeed that was her intention (she denies any political motive) then she miscalculated horribly. Her party was ousted from government in B-W on Sunday after running the prosperous southern region for 58 straight years. But what if Merkel was really thinking longer-term -- ie beyond the state vote to the next federal election in 2013? After the Japan catastrophe she may well have realised that her chances of getting elected to a third term were next-to-nil if she didn't pivot quickly on nuclear. There are two good reasons why that is probably a safe assumption. First is the extent of anti-nuclear sentiment in Germany. A recent poll for Stern magazine showed nearly two in three Germans would like to see the country's 17 nuclear power plants shut down within 5 years. The nuclear issue was the decisive factor in the B-W election. And you can bet it will play an important role in the next national vote -- even if it is 2-1/2 years away. The second reason why the reversal looks like a good strategic decision from a political point of view is the dire state of Merkel's junior partner in government -- the Free Democrats. It was the strength of the FDP which vaulted her to a second term in September 2009. But now it looks like their weakness could be her undoing in 2013. Merkel probably needs the FDP to score at least 10 percent in the next vote to give her a chance of renewing her "black-yellow" coalition. Right now the FDP is hovering at a meagre 5 percent and it is difficult to see how they double that anytime soon. The nuclear shift widens Merkel's options in one fell swoop. Suddenly the issue that made a coalition between Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Greens unthinkable at the federal level has vanished. Her party set a precedent by hooking up with the Greens in the city-state of Hamburg in 2008. Now she has more than two years to lay the foundations for a similar partnership in Berlin. By then voters may see Merkel's nuclear U-turn in a different light. And only then will it be truly clear if it was a huge political mistake, as the Baden-Wuerttemberg vote suggests, or a prescient strategic coup.
from Russell Boyce:
Japan continues to dominate the file from Asia with new photograhers rotating in to cover the twists and turns of this complex and tragic story. In a country were the nation rarely buries its dead, the site of mass graves is quite a shocking scene to behold. Holes the length of football pitches are dug in the ground with mechanical digggers and divided into individual plots by the military and are then filled with the coffins of the victims of the tsunami. Family members come to weep and pray over the graves. Some are namless and marked only with DNA details, others bear the names of the victims. There is not enough power or fuel to cremate the thousands of bodies that are being recovered from the disaster zone.
Members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force carry a coffin of a victim of the earthquake and tsunami to be buried at a temporary mass grave site in Higashi-Matsushima, in Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan March 24, 2011. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao
from Russell Boyce:
Japan - after four days of editing pictures from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan I took an hour break to buy some food and get some money in a small shopping centre near the office. As I walked through the busy street, the thought that stuck me was that everything around me is so temporary. The people along the coast of the Miyagi Prefecture were probably going about their daily business, just like I was, when the wall of water swept through their towns wiping their very existence off the face of the earth. Reports of a nuclear cloud heading towards Tokyo where 13 million people live, added to my sense of fear. In my mind, the world had changed forever. I cannot begin to imagine what the people in Miyagi, the rescue workers and the photographers taking the picture are feeling. From our team of photographers covering the story, I have chosen three pictures from each photographer, not an easy task when there are so many great images. Respect to all the teams covering the story and my condolences to the people of Japan. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
A survivor pushes his bicycle through remains of devastated town of Otsuchi March 14, 2011. In the town of Otsuchi in Iwate prefecture, 12,000 out of a population of 15,000 have disappeared following Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
from Reuters Investigates:
Check out two special reports out of Tokyo today.
Here's how one expert sums up the situation:
"They might have been prepared for an earthquake. They might have been prepared for a tsunami. They might have been prepared for a nuclear emergency, but it was unlikely that they were prepared for all three," said Ellen Vancko, an electric power expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
from George Chen:
By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.
While the rest of the world is trying to help Japan deal with the aftermath of its earthquake and tsunami, some parents in China and Hong Kong are on a single-minded quest to buy up as much made-in-Japan baby formula as they can.
from Tales from the Trail:
This was definitely an Ides of March to beware of.
Japan faced a potential nuclear catastrophe after explosions at three reactors at a nuclear power plant sent radiation toward Tokyo. The fear factor sent shivers through world stock markets which tumbled.
Fear also reportedly prompted some Americans to buy potassium iodide tablets and Geiger counters. Good idea?
from Tales from the Trail:
It is a natural instinct to review one's own situation when a friend or neighbor is hit by a crisis.
So the risk of a nuclear disaster in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami prompted the United States to look inward. The upshot is that President Barack Obama is committed to nuclear power, and "it remains a part of the president's overall energy plan," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
from Oddly Enough Blog:
Blog Guy, like many of your readers I'm looking for a new and interesting career. I like to drive, I like retail work, and I enjoy making people happy. Any ideas?
I may have just the thing. How would you like to drive a van around and stop to sell wine to people?