TEXT 1 Fukushima nuclear plant blast puts Japan on high alert


Warnings of possible meltdown amid radiation leaks. Tens of thousands evacuated after plant explosion. Up to 1,300 killed in earthquake


The Guardian, 12 March 2011



Japan is battling to stave off a nuclear disaster after an explosion at a north-eastern nuclear plant in the wake of the enormous earthquake and tsunami. Authorities are evacuating tens of thousands of residents living within a 12 mile (20km) radius of the Fukushima Daiichi plant and those within 6 miles of a second installation in Futuba, 150 miles north of Tokyo. The explosion followed warnings of a possible meltdown after problems with the cooling system and confirmation of a radiation leak at Fukushima No 1 plant. But nuclear safety officials said it was unlikely the reactor had suffered serious damage, according to the Kyodo news agency.

It is feared that 1,300 people died in Friday’s double disaster, most being killed as the wall of mud and water engulfed buildings, roads and vehicles, Japanese media reported. But the priority now is to tackle the crisis at the power plant. Kyodo cited an official who said that the rate of hourly radiation leaking from Fukushima was equal to the amount usually permitted in a year. Authorities had previously heralded a successful release of radioactive gases to reduce pressure inside the reactor, which might account for the high levels. « We are now trying to analyse what is behind the explosion, » said the chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano. « We ask everyone to take action to secure safety. »

Television footage showed the walls of one building had crumbled, leaving only its metal frame, but it was not clear whether it housed the reactor. The Tokyo Power Electric Company, which runs the Fukushima Daiichi plant, said four workers were injured in the explosion. Hours after the blast, officials widened a 6-mile evacuation zone around the plant and around Fukushima No 2 plant. The Tokyo fire department has dispatched an elite Hyper rescue team to the nuclear plant.

An uncontrolled temperature rise at the plant could lead to a meltdown of the uranium reactor core. This could burn through the walls of the vessel and release radiation into a containment building that surrounds the reactor. Some fuel is already thought to have melted in the reactor. Japanese media said officials had detected iodine and caesium, elements released when overheating causes core damage. The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said it was urgently seeking information. An explosion of the pressure vessel at the Chernobyl reactor in 1986 led to a vast release of radiation. But experts and authorities urged people to remain calm, suggesting the chances of a major disaster were slight.

The crisis began when the 8.9 magnitude earthquake cut out power, turning off the water supply needed to cool the system. The tsunami is thought to have cut off the backup diesel generator an hour later, leading to pressure rising rapidly within the reactor. Earlier in the day a Japanese nuclear safety panel said radiation levels were 1,000 times higher than normal in a control room and eight times higher than normal just outside the plant. Speaking before the blast, Naoto Sekimura, a professor at the University of Tokyo, told the Associated Press a major radioactive disaster was unlikely. « No Chernobyl is possible at a light water reactor. Loss of coolant means a temperature rise, but it also will stop the reaction, » he said. « Even in the worst-case scenario, that would mean some radioactive leakage and equipment damage, but not an explosion. If venting is done carefully, there will be little leakage. Certainly not beyond the 3km radius. »

A partial meltdown in one of the light water reactors at Three Mile Island in 1979 resulted in the release of radioactive gases in the most serious incident in the history of the US nuclear power industry. The reactor was eventually brought under control despite a series of errors. The blast has compounded the fears of survivors in the worst hit region, north-eastern Tohoku, where aftershocks continue to rock the ground.

DavidHalton in Sendai city tweeted: « Constant sirens and aircraft that I hope are military that on top of worrying about nuclear fallout and tremors. » Residents woke up after a freezing night on rooftops and in emergency shelters to a sea of mud, water and debris. Earthquakes continued to rock the north-east coast overnight, although some said the worst tremors appeared to be subsiding. Kyodo said rail operators had yet to find four trains after losing contact with them as they operated on coastal lines on Friday.East Japan Railway Company said it did not know how many people were on board the trains. Japan downgraded tsunami warnings in most areas but Tohoku remained on high alert for waves of up to 10 metres high. The tsunami has reached countries across the Pacific region but there were no reports of major damage outside Japan. The country has mobilised 50,000 rescuers, and footage showed some winching people to safety from rooftops.

Witnesses said the tsunami had swept inland by up to six miles in Sendai, which has around 1 million inhabitants and is 80 miles from the epicentre. « The flood came in from behind the store and swept around both sides. Cars were flowing right by, » said Wakio Fushima, who owns a grocery shop. « The tsunami was unbelievably fast. Smaller cars were being swept around me and all I could do was sit in my truck, » said driver Koichi Takairin, who was trapped in his four-tonne vehicle by the torrent.


TEXT 2 Fires light up Japanese night after mega-quake and huge tsunami which wiped out towns, killed over 1,000 and cut power to millions


By Daily Mail Reporter, 12th March 2011


Towns burn furiously as devastation continues into the night

Quake now said to have measured 9.0 on Richter scale

Magnitude 6.6 aftershock causes buildings in Tokyo to sway

Death toll expected to exceed 1,000 with many more injured

Ship carrying 100 passengers swept away by tsunami

Four million people without power in Tokyo alone

More than 1,000 people are feared to have died after the sixth largest earthquake in recorded history devastated Japan.


The massive earthquake – 8,000 times stronger than the one that hit New Zealand last month – sent a catastrophic 33 foot tsunami hurtling across the Pacific Ocean. Last night the strength of the quake increased to a staggering 9.0 on the Richter scale. Thousands of people were also forced to flee for their lives as the 100mph wall of water bore down on them, sweeping away everything in its path. Last night, huge fires burned unabated across large parts of the country as damaged oil refineries and gas works billowed black smoke into the sky.

Half the country was understood to be without power, with four million homes in Tokyo alone being cut off, while the army has been deployed to the quake-hit areas to help relief efforts. However those relief efforts were hampered by at least 50 reported aftershocks, including a 6.6 magnitude tremor which hit Tokyo and caused already damaged buildings to shake further. Elsewhere, two high-speed bullet trains were missing alongside a cruise ship carrying 100 passengers that was swept away when the wave hit. One of the trains was reported to be carrying 400 passengers. A state of emergency was declared at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima after the quake caused the cooling system to fail.  Tonight, the Japanese government confirmed that they would release radioactive vapor to ease high pressure that had built up inside the reactor. Between 200 and 300 bodies have been found in Sendai city, while another 151 were confirmed killed, with 547 missing. Police also said 798 people were injured. The tsunami struck Sendai, which has a population of about one million, on the north east coast  early yesterday morning. It followed the earthquake which hit at 2.46pm local time (0546 GMT) at a depth of six miles, about 80 miles off the eastern coast, Japan’s meteorological agency said. The area is 240 miles (380km) north east of Tokyo.

Japan is better prepared than anywhere else in the world, with its buildings specifically designed to withstand earthquakes, but many were simply swept away. And, with the death toll rising, it is feared thousands more are at risk as the true scale of the devastation, which could total £9billion, becomes apparent. Kesennuma, a town of 70,000 people in Miyagi, burned furiously into the night with no apparent hope of being extinguished, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK said. Upturned and partially submerged vehicles were seen bobbing in the water, some with drivers and passengers inside. Buildings, including a hotel with 100 guests inside, collapsed and tens of thousands ran from office tower blocks into the streets as the earth beneath them shook. One said it was as if they ‘were standing on the deck of a ship in a storm’. Cars trying to escape the wall of mud and water were picked up and carried along. Some disappeared beneath while others were tossed and turned in the waters. More than 300 homes were washed away in Ofunato City alone. Television footage showed mangled debris, uprooted trees, upturned cars and shattered timber littering streets. Hundreds of Britons are believed to be in the country. Many have spoken of the terrifying moment that the quake struck.  Jide Obandina, a 29-year-old teacher originally from Shropshire and now living in Tokyo, told how he fled a gym in the skyscraper district of Shinjuku. ‘It started getting intense and I got up and started walking out briskly,’ he said. ‘About halfway down the corridor it kicked in, there was a roaring noise and stuff was falling all around me. That was when I ran for my life. ‘There is nothing more terrifying than being surrounded by huge buildings that could come down on your head. You could hear them creak and groan. It was terrifying.’

Among Britons trying to reach loved ones, which proved difficult due to phone line disruption, were relatives of graduates on the Japan Exchange and Teaching (Jet) programme. A co-ordinator at the London office said between 300 and 400 Britons were in Japan. English teacher Jenny Tamura Spragg, 33, described how the quake hit in the middle of a school lesson with a class full of 14-year-old pupils. As she hid under a desk she thought: ‘This is it, the end.’ Mrs Tamura Spragg, originally from Cardiff, said: ‘The shakes started off slowly, but progressively got stronger. ‘The children were in a desperate panic when we decided to tell them to hide under their desks. Some children were crying. ‘When I finally got under a desk myself, I had time to think while the continuous tremors seemed to go on forever. ‘The thought ‘This is it, the end’ did cross my mind as a potential reality. ‘Aftershocks were quite severe for a few hours after.’

Mrs Tamura Spragg, who lives in Kumagaya, Saitama, and has been in Japan for 10 years, continued: ‘People here are very calm – very Japanese, so to speak.’ Japanese people have also spoke of their terror when the earthquake and tsunami struck. Osamu Akiya, 46, was working at his Tokyo office when the quake hit. It sent bookshelves and computers crashing to the floor, and cracks appeared in the walls. ‘I’ve been through many earthquakes, but I’ve never felt anything like this,’ he said.  A woman with a baby told television crews: ‘I was unable stay on my feet because of the violent shaking. The aftershocks gave us no reprieve. Then the tsunamis came when we tried to run for cover. It was the strongest quake I experienced.’  ‘I was terrified and I’m still frightened,’ said Hidekatsu Hata, 36, manager of a Chinese noodle restaurant in Tokyo’s Akasaka area. ‘I’ve never experienced such a big quake before.’ Asagi Machida, a 27-year-old web designer in Tokyo, was walking near a coffee shop when the earthquake hit. ‘The images from the New Zealand earthquake are still fresh in my mind so I was really scared. I couldn’t believe such a big earthquake was happening in Tokyo.’Major roads to the worst-hit coastal areas were severely damaged and communications, including telephone lines, were snapped. Train services in North-East Japan and in Tokyo, which normally serve 10million people a day, were also suspended, leaving many passengers stranded in stations or roaming the streets. Dramatic footage showed the surge washing away cars, a bridge and buildings at the mouth of the Hirose-gawa River, which flows through the centre of Sendai, while a roof caved in at a graduation ceremony in Tokyo.

The large ship swept away by the tsunami rammed directly into a breakwater in Kesennuma city in the Miyagi region, according to footage on public broadcaster NHK, and numerous people are believed to have been injured.

Prime Minister David Cameron said the Japanese earthquake was a ‘terrible reminder of the destructive power of nature’ and pledged to help the country. He added: ‘Everyone should be thinking of the country and its people and I have asked immediately that our Government look at what we can do to help.’ The Queen sent a message to Emperor Akihito, saying: ‘I was saddened to hear of the tragic loss of life caused by the earthquake which has struck North-East Japan today.’

Speaking on national television, Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan said: ‘I offer my deepest sympathy to the people who have suffered the disaster. ‘Regarding our nuclear facilities, some of the plants have stopped automatically but so far no radioactive material has been confirmed to have been leaked to the outside. ‘Given the situation an emergency disaster response has been set up with myself as the head ‘We will secure the safety of the people of Japan. We ask the people of Japan to continue to be cautious and vigilant. We ask the people of Japan to react calmly.’ Sendai airport, north of Tokyo, was inundated with cars, trucks and buses and thick mud covered its runways.

Tokyo’s main airport was closed. A large section of the ceiling at Ibaraki airport, about 50 miles from Tokyo, fell to the floor with a powerful crash. UK airlines cancelled flights to the Japanese capital yesterday but London-bound BA flights from Hareda and Narita landed safely back in the UK, having left before the earthquake struck.

Thirty international search and rescue teams stand ready to go to Japan to provide assistance following the earthquake, the United Nations said. ‘We stand ready to assist as usual in such cases,’ Elisabeth Byrs of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance told Reuters in Geneva. ‘Thirty international search and rescue teams are on alert and monitoring the situation and stand ready to assist if necessary.’

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world’s most seismically active areas. The country accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater and on average, an earthquake occurs every 5 minutes. But yesterday’s quake surpasses the Great Kanto quake of September 1, 1923, which had a magnitude of 7.9 and killed more than 140,000 people in the Tokyo area. Seismologists had said another such quake could strike the city any time. A 1995 quake in Kobe caused $100 billion in damage and was the most expensive natural disaster in history.


Comparison of the two texts:


As greater awareness of environmental damage made debates over nuclear power more bitter, the blast of Fukushima nuclear plant in March 2011 received wide coverage in the international press. Broadsheets and tabloids nonetheless cover the event in different ways. By comparing an article released in March, 12th, in the Guardian and an article from the Daily Mail published on the same day, we shall underscore (souligner) the main differences between the two British dailies.

Though the two articles were published on the same day and cover exactly the same event, namely (c’est à dire), the earthquake that hit Japan and the ensuing leak in Fukushima power plant, one stresses (accentue) technical issues while the other highlights (met l’accent sur) human and material damage. The two dailies had special correspondents but we may be under the impression that only the reporter from the DM (Daily Mail) was on the spot as the two Beijing-based journalists from the G (Guardian) do not seem to have directly interviewed the population.

The G gives ample details as to the technical issues raised by the leak. The mention “an explosion at a north-eastern nuclear plant”, the evacuation operations, the problems with the cooling systems, the damage on the reactor, the temperature rise and risks of radiation. The reporter from the DM also evokes the nuclear plant: “a state of emergency was declared at a nuclear plant” but puts the emphasis (met l’accent) much more on the earthquake and the damage. As a consequence, there are many more technical words in the G than in the DM. One may indeed pick up words like “meltdown”, “cooling system”, “radiation leak”, “release of radioactive gases”, “the uranium reactor core”, or “iodine and caesium”. Besides, the journalist uses compound words –i.e. “Fukushima nuclear plant blast” or “core damage” for instance” –that heighten (accroît) the accuracy and technicality of the paper. A few figures are also quoted (cites) to back up (étayer, appuyer) the information.

In the DM, many figures are also given but most of them are related to the death toll (“1,000people”, “between 200 and 300 bodies”, “151 were confirmed killed”, “547 missing”, “798 people were injured”) or to the size of the earthquake (“8,000 times stronger”, “33 foot tsunami”, etc.) Much attention is paid to the damage caused by the earthquake, whether it be (que ce soit) the damaged oil refineries, the cars and buildings destroyed by the muddy water, or the mud-covered facilities. These elements are passed over in silence (passes sous silence) in the G. Only a few lines at the end of the article are devoted (sont consacrées) to human damage. The DM also recounts (raconte) what befell (survint) the English expats in Japan at the time of the earthquake and quotes words from the Prime Minister and the Queen. These elements show that many tabloids remain nationally centered and tend to emphasize what is of concern for the British population. The G is more international in scope and less patriotic. The DM article includes fragments of interviews with the victims of the earthquake while no victim is interviewed in the Guardian. One may therefore conclude from this first series of observations that the G is more technical while the DM personalizes the event.


If we get interested in the type of analysis that is provided, we come to realize that the journalists made different choices. As a matter of fact, in the G, the journalists give many elements that may help the readers understand the event and the upcoming threats. Many time adverbs and chronological data are given: “after an explosion,”, “followed warnings,” “Friday’s double disaster,” “previously,” “hours after the blasts,” etc. The journalists also refer to previous leaks (Chernobly, 1986, Three Mile Island, 1979) for the readers to be able to gauge (mesurer) the risk. Besides, the article is well organized, following a chronological order. The article from the DM is much more loosely structured. The journalist lists up a series of problems and accumulates data. The testimonies are inserted in the article with no attempt at structuring the argument. The article is focused on the event in Japan only, there is no comparison or elements that may help the readers grasp (saisir) the seriousness of the threat.


The two newspapers offer two very different articles. Not only do the content and analysis vary, the style is also utterly (absolument) different.

The G journalists refrain from including any personal judgment. They quote officials and experts extensively, using indirect speech in a large number of sentences. They also use modal auxiliaries to show that no one can guarantee what will happen next. The tone is reassuring, with references to the rescue teams, the authorities’ efforts to monitor the situation.

Conversely, the DM spices up the story with a flow of adverbs and adjectives depicting a hell-like situation, or an Armageddon. In the headline, words like “mega” or “huge”, associated with figures set the tone. The words describing movement are very strong: “wipe out,” “hurtling across,”, “billow,” “sweeping away everything in its path,’ or “rammed directly into” to quote just a few examples. Adjectives and adverbs such as furiously, massive, catastrophic, dramatic, terrible, terrifying, shattered, desperate reinforce the horror of the scenes depicted. In fact, the journalist follows the conventions of TV footage, describing scenes in visual terms for the readers to become witnesses of the tragedy. A sense of doom prevails (prévaut) with words like devastation or panic summing up the situation: Kesennuma is burning “with no apparent hope of being extinguished”. Testimonies are replete with (regorgent de) words related to emotions: children are crying, Britons try to reach “their loved ones”. Children are mentioned to heighten the maudlin (larmoyant) aspect of the event and a school-teacher is interviewed. Everything is done to increase the tear-jerking aspects of the tragedy. The last line in the article confirms the journalist’s eagerness to turn the event into a major, un-heard of catastrophe.

In the final analysis, the two documents under scrutiny correspond to two distinct traditions in journalism. Ever since the number of readers started to increase in the second half of the 19th century, the popular press has turned real events into dramatic sensational items of news to boost its circulation figures. The DM, Britain’s most famous tabloid, whets up the curiosity and voyeurist drives of its readers by focusing on the most tragic aspects of the situation. On the contrary, the G shuns any sensationalizing device by focusing on the technical aspects only. The papers target two different readers and prove consistent with their reputations.