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Home: Strongest Ever Japan Earthquake and Tsunami: News updates for May 14-20, 2011

Strongest Ever Japan Earthquake
and Tsunami
News updates for May 14-20, 2011

This page is a continuation of my main Strongest Ever Japan Earthquake and Tsunami page, reflecting May 14-20, 2011 news updates for the 10th week after the initial quake. Thanks so much for your concern, and please continue to remember in your thoughts and prayers those 10's of thousands of people who, even 1 year after the disaster, are still suffering right now, many of whom still haven't heard from their over 3000 missing family members.

News Updates for 10th Week after Japan Earthquake and Tsunami -- May 14-20, 2011 (JST=UT+9 hrs., or CDT+14 hrs., e.g. 8 am in Houston = 10 pm in Tokyo):

May 20, 2011 22:50 (JST):  North American plate slipped as far as 30 meters - A Japanese scientist says the March 11th earthquake and tsunami were caused by distinctive movements of nearby tectonic plates. Associate Professor Satoshi Ide of the University of Tokyo's Graduate School analyzed data from seismometers around the world. He studied the movements of the descending Pacific plate, or the ocean plate, and the overlying North American plate carrying eastern Japan, at the time of the quake. Ide found the quake began with the North American plate sliding relatively slowly along its boundary with the Pacific plate, off the coast of Japan at a depth of about 20 kilometers. (Source:

North American plate slipped as far as 30 meters

May 20, 2011 18:05 (JST):  YouTube Launches New Channel, Supports Businesses Hit By Japan Earthquake And Tsunami - YouTube has announced the launch of a new channel that aims to support business owners in areas of Eastern Japan that were affected by a major earthquake and tsunami earlier this year. The channel, which is called "YouTube Business Support Channel," aims to let everyone know that businesses in the area are up and running again following the disaster. YouTube has teamed up with 7 local newspapers in Japan to produce short videos that highlight small businesses such as hot springs inns and organic rice sellers. More, including video...

May 20, 2011 11:45 (JST):  NASA/University Japan Quake Study Yields Surprises
- A new NASA and university study of the March 11, 2011, Japan earthquake that included researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., provides the most comprehensive look to date at how Earth moved that day, unleashing widespread destruction and a devastating tsunami. The study of the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Oki quake, led by researchers at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and published online in the May 19 issue of Science Express, details the first large set of observational data from this rare megathrust earthquake event. More...

Tohoku quake fault slip
Fault slip due to the Japan 9.0
Tohoku-Oki earthquake. (Image credit: Caltech)

May 20, 2011 2:25 (JST):  TEPCO to record historic financial loss - Tokyo Electric Power Company or TEPCO will post a historic loss of around 15 billion dollars in the fiscal year ending in March. This is due to the huge cost of recovery efforts arising from the recent disaster. A source close to TEPCO says that the company will allocate 5 billion dollars to stabilize the troubled Fukushima Daiichi reactors. It also needs to earmark funds for future decommissioning of four reactors, as well as the expenses required to restart thermal power plants that were not being used. In total, the extraordinary loss will exceed 12 billion dollars, bringing the overall deficit to 14.7 billion dollars, which is the largest since the company opened in 1951. (Source:

May 19, 2011 21:25 (JST):  TEPCO releases photos of tsunami hitting plant
- TEPCO has released 17 photos showing its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant being swamped by the tsunami on March 11th. Eleven of them were taken from the 4th floor of a waste processing facility near the Number 4 reactor over a 15 minute period from 3:42 PM, when the first wave reached the plant roughly one hour after the massive earthquake struck. Other photos, taken from near the Number 5 reactor, capture the tsunami approaching 3 water and fuel tanks on the coast. The photos show the tanks and around 7 cars disappear under water. (Source:

TEPCO releases photos of tsunami hitting plant
In this March 11, 2011 photo released on May 19 by the Tokyo Electric Power Co., tsunami waves come toward tanks of heavy oil for Unit 5 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. (AP Photo/TEPCO)

May 19, 2011 13:35 (JST):  Foreign travelers to Japan down 62% in April
- The number of foreign tourists visiting Japan in April fell by more than 60 percent in the wake of the March 11th disaster. The Japan National Tourism Organization says an estimated 295,800 travelers visited Japan during the month, down 62.5 percent from a year ago. That's the biggest fall since records began in 1964. A drop of more than 50 percent was observed in March as well. (Source:

Foreign travelers to Japan down 62% in April

May 19, 2011 6:15 (JST):  Konishiki, Musashimaru saviors in tsunami zone
- Konishiki faced many tough opponents during his 15 year career as a sumo wrestler in Japan. But none packed the power of his most recent opponent; the earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of Northeastern Japan March 11, 2011. In April Konishiki organized a humanitarian mission to aid tsunami victims still living in emergency shelters, and is now using his celebrity to assist tsunami victims. An estimated 120,000 people displaced by the tsunami are still living in shelters. Konishiki and his team of volunteers fed an estimated 5,000 people at five shelters. Their trip included visits to shelters in Iwaki, Koriyama, and Aizuwakamatsu. More...

Konishiki unloads provisions for tsunami victims
Hawaii born sumo star Konishiki unloads provisions
for victims of the tsunami in Japan.

May 19, 2011 0:35 (JST):  Energy efficient gadgets in high demand in Japan
- Japan is braced for a summer of electricity shortages after the earthquake and tsunami in March. The country relied on nuclear power for 30% of its supply. But the Fukushima plant was disabled by the disaster, and another nuclear plant at Hamaoka has been shut down because of safety fears. Tokyo's electronics shops are busy these days with customers looking for energy efficient gadgets. At Bic Camera, a huge multi-storey building in the Yurakucho district, demand began to pick up the week after the earthquake and tsunami. The latest lines of eco-fridges are selling well. Also popular is a new range of air conditioners, which can sense when people are in the room, and whether they are being active or sitting still, and adjust the cooling output accordingly. More...

May 18, 2011 21:30 (JST):  New national park planned for tsunami-hit coast
- Japan's Environment Ministry says it will combine parks in three prefectures affected by the March 11th earthquake and tsunami into a new national park that symbolizes the area's reconstruction. The ministry on Wednesday said the plan is to promote the region's economic reconstruction by developing tourism on the scenic Sanriku coast. Six parks in Aomori, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, including the Rikuchu Kaigan National Park straddling Iwate and Miyagi, are to be made into a single national park. (Source:

New national park planned for tsunami-hit coast

May 18, 2011 14:55 (JST):  American teacher calls for help to rebuild tsunami-hit schools - An American teacher of English at a middle school in Miyagi Prefecture has set up funds to solicit donations for rebuilding primary schools that were damaged by the tsunami following the massive earthquake in March. Andras Molnar, 25, from Pennsylvania, said that although he is leaving Yamamoto town in the prefecture in August when his teaching contract ends, he is "hoping to stay connected" with the town through the fund. Molnar, from Pennsylvania, said he grew interested in Japan through Japanese anime such as "Gundam" and spent a year in the country as a high school student and again while at university. He came to Yamamoto, a Pacific coast town with a population of around 16,000, in August 2009. (Source: Japan Today)

May 18, 2011 9:35 (JST):  Students make origami cranes for Japan relief
- Tens of thousands of victims of Japan's devastating earthquake and tsunami are about to get some much needed help. One company and millions of volunteers are proving a Japanese legend by turning cranes into clothes. Right now, 50,000 paper cranes fill the OshKosh stock room in Milpitas, California. They are the result of a campaign launched by the company Cranes for Kids. The deal was simple; the company would donate a piece of clothing to earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan for each crane received. They set a cap of 50,000, but got far more than that. In just three weeks, nearly 2 million paper cranes came pouring. But why cranes? The idea hatched from a well known Japanese legend. More, including video...

May 18, 2011 7:05 (JST):  Don't forget Japan earthquake victims, pleads survivor - Living in Japan during the quake was Australian and Mackay local Gai Oyama who was living in Iwaki City with her husband Kazuki and baby. While on the route for home after the quake, Gai encountered a friend who stopped her from travelling any further and insisted she turn around as he warned of the tsunami roaring up the coast. 'I just scooted back,' she said. Gai and her home narrowly avoided disaster but many of her neighbours including her best friend weren't so lucky and had their homes destroyed. With carnage engulfing, Gai decided to flee Japan with her young baby, leaving her husband behind to help with the rebuild. More...

Gai Oyama at the Wintermoon Festival
Gai Oyama at the Wintermoon Festival where she was raising money and awareness for the people. (Daniel Hamilton - ABC Local)

May 18, 2011 1:25 (JST):  Smart phones upgraded to receive quake bulletins
- Japanese mobile phone companies plan to offer new smartphones that can receive earthquake bulletins, which have been in high demand since the March 11th disaster. NTT DOCOMO plans to release 8 such phones in the coming months. KDDI has unveiled 6 such phones, one with improved waterproofing and another with a built-in keyboard. (Source:

Smart phones upgraded to receive quake bulletins

May 17, 2011 21:30 (JST):  Apple offers free repairs for Japanese quake damaged kits
- Apple has said it will offer free repairs to anyone whose Mac or iOS kits were damaged by March's earthquake and tsunami in Japan. However, users will have to live within a specially designated area set by the Japanese government. Owners will be able to get Macs, iPhones, Cinema Display, and iPads sorted without paying, as long as where they live is in an area hit by the natural disaster. These have been outlined in Japan's Disaster Relief Act. iPod nanos, classics and shuffles are not included in the offer. Anyone who wants to take advantage of Apple's deal will need to drop the Cupertino company a line by 30 June. (source)

May 17, 2011 12:45 (JST):  Cloud computing service helping animals in disaster-hit area
- A veterinary association in disaster-hit Miyagi Prefecture is using a cloud computing system provided by Fujitsu Ltd to manage information on pets that were rescued following the March 11 disaster. The Miyagi Veterinary Medical Association began using the network system on May 2 to upload and share data on rescued animals at a shelter in Ishinomaki in the prefecture. The shelter, set up in the tsunami-hit city by vets in Tokyo and Miyagi Prefecture to save pets that were separated from their owners in the disaster, began registering basic information on the animals, such as breed, color and size, using the cloud computing system, which allows shared access to software via the Internet. (Source: Japan Today) 

May 17, 2011 7:00 (JST):  Meltdown may have occurred also at Nos. 2, 3 reactors
- An adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Monday that the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant had failed to inject water into the Nos. 2 and 3 reactors for more than six hours after the March 11 massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami. Goshi Hosono, tasked with handling the nuclear crisis, said at a press conference that Tokyo Electric Power Co. had not been able to cool down the reactors' cores due to loss of external power for a long time after the quake, acknowledging that fuel in the vessels might have largely melted "in the worst-case scenario." (Source: Kyodo News)

May 16, 2011 20:55 (JST):  Fuel rods partially exposed above water - The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it believes the melted fuel rods in the No. 1 reactor are partially exposed above the water's surface. TEPCO says the reactor's fuel rods have melted and fallen to the bottom. It says holes were created and the containment vessel was also damaged. A large amount of highly radioactive water is believed to be leaking into the reactor building. TEPCO says that as of 11 AM on Sunday, the temperature of the reactor's upper section was 110.4 degrees Celsius, and the lower part was 88.6 degrees. (Source:

Fukushima fuel rods partially exposed above water

May 16, 2011 17:10 (JST):  Daycares kept children safe after quake
- More than 300 day-care centers were damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan - including at least 28 that were destroyed or swept away - but none of the children or staffers there died in the disaster. Quick thinking by caregivers - some of whom even piggybacked children to higher ground - and regular evacuation drills are being credited with saving the lives of hundreds of children in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures. Child-care centers are obliged to conduct evacuation drills every month. (Source: Leader Post)

May 16, 2011 12:25 (JST):  Japan dresses down to save power - Vending machines and heated toilet seats will be turned off and salarymen will swap their suits for Hawaiian shirts and shorts as Japan prepares for a summer of power shortages. Two months after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami struck, there are warnings of power shortages over the peak summer period. Japan's Environment ministry has announced a "Super Cool Biz" campaign, to persuade workers to swap their suits for polo shirts, Hawaiian shirts, jeans, and trainers. Shintaro Ishihara, the Tokyo governor, has called for the hundreds of thousands of vending machines that supply everything from hot coffee to schoolgirl's underwear to be turned off. More...

Hundreds of thousands of vending machines to be turned off
Tokyo's governor has called for the hundreds of thousands
of vending machines to be turned off (Photo: REX)

May 15, 2011 21:30 (JST):  Japan earthquake: Dealing with mountains of tsunami debris - Two months after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the task of clearing up the wreckage has barely begun. Towns along the coast have been left clogged with vast amounts of tsunami debris and local authorities are struggling to find places to put it. So great is the destruction in Ishinomaki that it is difficult to know where to start, but volunteers from the charity Japan Emergency NGO decided Mr. and Mrs. Kimura's house was as good a place as any. Miraculously it was left standing when the tsunami swept through, even though the water left a tidemark above head height. More...

Ishinomaki tsunami debris
The tsunami forced ships onto shore, overturned
cars, and washed houses away

May 15, 2011 13:45 (JST):  Massive floating platform heads for Fukushima
- A massive hollow floating platform is being transported to Fukushima to hold radioactive water from a troubled nuclear power plant. The steel platform is 136 meters long and 46 meters wide and can store up to 10,000 tons of water. It was provided to Tokyo Electric Power Company from Shizuoka City, where it was used as a fishing park. (Source:

Massive floating platform heads for Fukushima

May 15, 2011 7:55 (JST):  School's reopening gives town taste of normalcy after tsunami
- In Otsuchi, Japan, one middle school washed away in the tsunami and another recently reopened, housing students from both schools. Many teachers said they hoped it would be therapeutic not only for the students, but also for the town, more than half of which was destroyed. (Source: The Seattle Times)

Students from Otsuchi Middle School
Students from Otsuchi Middle School meet their teachers April 21 in the gym at Kirikiri Middle School, where they resumed classes, in Otsuchi, Japan.

May 14, 2011 15:50 (JST):  Fukushima Daiichi plant worker dies - A worker at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant fell unconscious at work on Saturday and later died. The worker in his 60s complained of ill health while working at a waste processing facility. He worked for a subcontracting firm of Tokyo Electric Power Company. The man was taken to a medical office in the plant, where he was found to have lost consciousness. He was then taken by ambulance to a hospital in Iwaki City and confirmed dead shortly after 9:30 AM. The cause of his death is unknown. (Source:

May 14, 2011 9:15 (JST):  Hula girls from disaster-hit Fukushima spa perform for evacuees
- Dancers from a spa resort in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, began touring shelters across Japan this month to perform for survivors of the March 11 quake and tsunami while the facility featured in the 2006 movie "Hula Girls" has remained closed since the disaster. The tour began May 3 at a shelter in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, the city where the Spa Resort Hawaiians is located, and the troupe traveled also to a facility Thursday in Kazo, Saitama Prefecture, north of Tokyo, for evacuees from Futaba, Fukushima, the town where the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station is located. Spa Resort Hawaiians, popular before the disaster, plans on reopening in October. (Source: Japan Today)

Hula girls from disaster-hit Fukushima spa perform for evacuees
Hula girls from Iwaki stand with Kazuhiko Saito, president of Joban
Kosan Co, at the tourism ministry in Tokyo. (TOURISM MINISTRY)

May 14, 2011 7:25 (JST):  Cherry trees planted in New York City
- Cherry trees have been planted in New York's Central Park to commemorate victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Cherry trees have been planted annually since 2009 at events introducing Japanese culture. This year. 8 trees were planted at 3 locations in the park. Representatives from the Consulate General and New York City took part in the planting ceremony on Friday. The City donated some of the trees. (Source:

May 14, 2011 2:15 (JST):  Japan needs foreign workers for quake recovery
- Japan needs to attract a large number of foreigners to help revive the farming and fishery industries in areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the head of a key reconstruction panel said Friday. "It is important to draw human resources, including permanent foreign residents" to the hard-hit northeastern region of Tohoku, Makoto Iokibe, who chairs the Reconstruction Design Council, said at a news conference at the Japan National Press Club. Iokibe noted that many cities and towns in the region, known for strong farming and fishery industries, had suffered from depopulation even before they were destroyed by the natural calamities, so population growth will be vital for their reconstruction. (Source: Japan Today)

9th week updates continued here: Strongest Ever Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, News updates for May 7-13, 2011

More Japan quake/tsunami news updates...
News updates for Mar. 19-25, 2011 (2nd week)
News updates for Mar. 12-18, 2011 (original page - 1st week 
after Mar. 11, 2011 quake)  

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Click for Tokyo, Japan Forecast

2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake -- All revenue from the purchase of "Quakebook" will be used to help the earthquake victims through the American Red Cross.


Star-studded album benefits Japan earthquake and Pacific tsunami relief. The artists, music labels, and music publishers have waived their royalties and proceeds to ensure that the Japanese Red Cross receives as much support as possible from this initiative.

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