. Earth Science News .

One year on, 'ghosts' stalk Japan's tsunami city
by Staff Writers
Ishinomaki, Japan (AFP) Feb 28, 2012

A year after whole neighbourhoods full of people were killed by the Japanese tsunami, rumours of ghosts swirl in Ishinomaki as the city struggles to come to terms with the awful tragedy.

One reconstruction project appears stalled because of fears the undead spirits of those who perished last March will bring bad luck.

"I heard people working to repair the store became sick because of ghosts," Satoshi Abe, 64, said, gesturing to a half-repaired supermarket.

"People died everywhere, here and there. The city is full of such stories," he said.

In some parts of this once vibrant fishing port, signs of life are returning -- houses are being rebuilt, businesses are re-opening and children are back at school.

But with around a fifth of the 19,000 who died across the northeast having lost their lives in this small city alone, few think it can ever be normal again.

Shinichi Sasaki said the memory of March 11, 2011 never leaves and it is this persistent memory that creates the "ghosts".

"That day keeps coming back to your mind," he said.

"If you know someone who was killed, and the death was so sudden, you may feel that person is still there. I don't believe in ghosts but I can understand why the town is rife with rumours."

One taxi driver, who did not want to give his name, told AFP of his unwillingness to stop in parts of the city that were all but wiped out by the enormous waves of last March, because he worries that his customer will be a spirit.

A woman who lives in the city said she had heard stories of queues of people who can be seen rushing towards the hills as they try again and again to escape the waves, an endless replay of their last, fruitless minutes.

Counselors and academics say a widespread belief in ghosts is fairly normal in the aftermath of a large tragedy and forms a part of the healing process in a society.

Cultural anthropologist Takeo Funabiki said it was only "natural" that stories of the supernatural abounded in the wake of such an event.

"Human beings find it very difficult to accept death, whether they are inclined by nature to superstition or are very scientifically minded," he told AFP.

"A sudden or abnormal death, anything other than someone dying in bed of old age, is particularly difficult for people to comprehend.

"When there are things that many people find difficult to accept, they can find expression in the form of rumours or rituals for the dead, amongst other things.

"The point is that it takes the shape of something that you can share with other people in your society," he said.

For some of those who lost loved ones, the traditions that usually accompany death in Japan have served their purpose.

Shinto priests have been called upon to console the souls of the dead and ease their passage into the next world before they purify the places their bodies were found.

At the Buddhist festival of Obon in mid summer, offerings were made at altars as those left behind readied to welcome back the spirits of lost loved ones, who they believed would return to this world to visit for a few days.

But other people have struggled to make sense of their loss.

Koji Ikeda, a therapist and lecturer at the Academy of Counselors Japan, said "survivors have various complex emotions -- fear, anxiety, sorrow or desire for the return of deceased people".

"It is possible that a whole lot of emotions that people cannot fully cope with lead to 'projections' of spirits" he said.

"Pent-up emotions need to be expressed in order for people to be able to adapt to the new reality and move forward with their grief."

While few in the city will talk openly of actually having seen a ghost, many are prepared to accept spirits could stalk the deserted streets.

Yuko Sugimoto says she is not particularly superstitious and has not seen any ghosts. But still she has no doubt they could be there among the shadows.

"Many people who were leading normal lives died suddenly," she said. "I'm sure they must find that difficult to accept.

"It would be strange if you didn't hear anything about any of them."

Related Links
Bringing Order To A World Of Disasters
A world of storm and tempest
When the Earth Quakes

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries

Fukushima contamination 'chronic and lasting': French agency
Paris (AFP) Feb 28, 2012 - Radioactive contamination levels from Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have fallen sharply since the accident but will be "chronic and lasting" for many years, a French watchdog said Tuesday.

"The initial contamination linked to the accident has greatly declined," Didier Champion, crisis manager at the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), told reporters almost a year after the disaster.

"That doesn't mean that there won't be any more, far from it. Today, and for many years to come, we will have a situation of chronic and lasting contamination of the environment."

It was essential for Japan to maintain vigilant monitoring of fruit, milk, mushrooms, game and fish, Champion said.

"There are risks of chronic exposure at low dosage, and without care this can build up over time," he warned.

The March 11 catastrophe saw the plant swamped by a quake-generated tsunami that knocked out coolant pumps, triggered hydrogen explosions and caused three of its six reactors to suffer meltdowns of nuclear fuel.

Radioactive elements were spewed into the air by the blast and into the sea by cooling water that was pumped in in a desperate attempt to keep the overheated reactors under control.

The IRSN said the main radioactivity leaks occurred between March 12-25 in about 15 incidents, "of which the biggest probably took place before March 15".

It gave a provisional estimate that 408 peta-becquerels, or 408 million billion becquerels, of radioactive iodine had been emitted into the air.

This was 10 times lower than in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, the world's worst nuclear accident.

The iodine releases posed a sharp but temporary hazard as the element quickly decays. A bigger problem, the IRSN said, was caesium-137, a long-lasting element which takes around 30 years to decay to half its level of radioactivity.

Caesium of all kinds released at Fukushima was estimated by the agency at 58 peta-becquerels, or three times less than Chernobyl. Caesium 137 accounted for 21 peta-becquerels.

Of around 24,000 square kilometers (9,200 square miles) of land contaminated by caesium 137, only 600 sq. kms (230 sq. miles) breached a safety threshold of 600,000 becquerels per square metre, the IRSN said.

This, again, was only a fraction of the territory contaminated by caesium after Chernobyl.

However, there remained "hot spots" of contamination, up to 250 kilometres (156 miles) away, where radioactive particles had been deposited by the weather.

So far, no death or cases of sickness have been directly linked to the disaster, IRSN said, stressing however that the impact on the civilian population over the long term, and on emergency workers and plant employees, remained unclear.


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

15 tourists killed in China bus plunge
Beijing (AFP) Feb 26, 2012
Fifteen tourists were killed and another 19 injured when their bus plunged into a ravine, Chinese authorities said - the latest deadly accident on the nation's dangerous roads. The incident happened on Saturday morning after the bus took a bend on a highway in Shanxi province, the government of Jincheng city - where the accident took place - said in a statement. So far, 15 people have ... read more

China chemical plant blast kills 13

Japan feared Fukushima could 'finish' Tokyo: panel

Fukushima contamination 'chronic and lasting': French agency

One year on, 'ghosts' stalk Japan's tsunami city

A Rainbow for the Palm of Your Hand

Study of tiny droplets could have big applications

Work video calls connect with personal smartphones

Walker's World: The threat to books

New protected areas for dolphins declared

Philippines plans to slash fish catch to save stocks

Phytoplankton key to a healthy planet

Climate change may increase risk of water shortages in hundreds of US counties by 2050

Conservationists call for huge Antarctic marine reserve

Loss of Antarctic base deals Brazil a major blow

Glaciers: A window into human impact on the global carbon cycle

Breaking Through the Ice at Lake Vostok

Livestock science will benefit sub-Saharan Africa

Creating solutions for African agriculture

Climate change threatens S.Africa's rooibos tea

Early ripening of grapes pinned to warming, soil moisture

Tsunami towns at crossroads, despite clean-up

AFP photographer captures then and now of tsunami

Strong 6.8 quake shakes southwestern Siberia

Panic after powerful quake rocks Taiwan

South Sudan rebels sign truce deal with government

UN asks Angola for helicopters

Missile strike kills Islamist fighters in Somalia

In Somalia, securing peace harder than seizing territory

New evidence of end of Neanderthals seen

Taking tips from Vikings can help us adapt to global change

Digital technologies reversing extinction of languages

Neanderthal demise due to many influences, including cultural changes

Memory Foam Mattress Review

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement