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Deluged bullet trains show power of nature over modernization

46 Comments
By YURI KAGEYAMA

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Japanese need to be more aware of disaster risks and do more to prepare on their own instead of counting on the government to take care of them, experts said.

How ironic a statement. Just who are these "experts" that are being talked about? Let me guess, some Japanese educated academic, who lives in a glass house.

It's BECAUSE of the manner of education and training BY the government that people here do not have the ability to THINK for themselves and depend upon the government and all those koumuin, that get paid literally billions upon trillions of yen through out the country, who can't do their jobs either!

The government created the system, and now has to live with the consequences.

13 ( +21 / -8 )

Wet resistant, as simple as that.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Governments lack the funding and manpower to refurbish and replace tunnels, bridges and other structures to meet improved standards for resistance to earthquakes and other disasters.

Oh, why do they lack the funding, I wonder. Is it because the Jgovt has next to no notions of cutting costs, or because the current govt is more interested in its military than helping its people?

Japanese need to be more aware of disaster risks and do more to prepare on their own instead of counting on the government to take care of them, experts said.

Yeah, with the way the govt is run I wouldn't rely on them either. Imagine relying on them for anything except for their consistency in openly stealing our hard earned money in the form of so called taxes.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

But nothing spoke more of the powerlessness of modernization against natural disasters than rows of bullet trains deluged in floodwaters in Nagano, a mountainous region. Japan's technological prowess and meticulous attention to detail are sometimes no match for rising risks in a precarious era of climate change. At least 10 shinkansen trains, each consisting of 12 cars, were damaged by the flooding at a depot in Nagano, said East Japan Railway Co spokesman Yuji Ishikawa.

That depot is surrounded by two rivers Chikumagawa river and Asa river. During that day there was weather forecast that predict they'll have rain torrent but still they put those Shinkansen in that depot? Where are JR execs that need to ensure that all assets should be in safe place?

18 ( +18 / -0 )

Very glad to see this type of article - discussing the reality of climate change.

Much needed for people to finallly realise and wake up to the fact that we are facing a global crisis.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Precisely! Right next to the depot stands the elevated shinkansen track which was above the flood water level. NHK broadcasted warnings about dam openings and to move to higher ground many hours before, so there was plenty of time to put the trains on those elevated tracks. Just common sense but of course nobody in charge has the guts to make that decision.

18 ( +18 / -0 )

No, it shows the stupidity of building a depot on a flood plain.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

@Yubaru - It's BECAUSE of the manner of education and training BY the government that people here do not have the ability to THINK for themselves and depend upon the government 

That's a very harsh statement although, if you watch a Japanese person attempting to reverse a car, you'll see the truth in this statement straight away.

"Deluged bullet trains show power of nature"

I'd say it shows a pretty dumb choice of location for storing a gazillion yen worth of high-tech equipment.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Taxes pay for Infrastructure repair and replacement also J govt salaries. J Gov must be making too much money. The Chikuma River has 6 dams that can release water into it. Which dams released water and how much water was released?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

When JDP was in power, they criticized harshly LDP for spending a lot of money in building unimportant (according to them) Yanba Dam. Now, people who live along the downriver are thanking for the dam very much. They say the dam protected them from the disaster. Also, in the fashionable city Futako Tamagawa in Tokyo near the Tamagawa River where the super levee was not built by the oppositions of the residents for the reason that the levee harms the scenes of the city are regretting a lot. They are inundated and those who live in high towers are without electricity. They cannot use elevators.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

But nothing spoke more of the powerlessness of modernization against natural disasters than rows of bullet trains deluged in floodwaters in Nagano, a mountainous region.

I don't think Japan needs more reminders. As for disaster preparation, it's kind of impossible. Japan is simply in a very unlucky area. Heavy tectonic movement means its an area prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity then it being close to a sub-tropic area means it's at risk of being hit by typhoons.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Those trains cost $35,000,000 per set.

They are going to need a hell of a lot of WD-40

Gary

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Japan's technological prowess and meticulous attention to detail 

Why do we always have to get the propaganda nationalist nonsense? Japan is not the only country with "technological prowess" and in fact it's often behind many western countries. And when it comes to the "meticulous attention to detail ", if that would be true, we wouldn't have four nuclear reactors blowing up eight years ago.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Weather conditions in Japan up to now have been relatively moderate," said Toshitaka Katada, a disaster expert and professor at the University of Tokyo.Those days are over, and Japan's readiness for disasters, still based on data collected decades ago, hasn't kept up with the times, he said.

Exactly time to get a bit of logic involved and update newer data collected, it will save lifes.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

With all due respect to the write of this article, the deluged Shinkansen trains do NOT show the power of nature over modernization!!

That would be like saying that the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown showed the power of nature over technology.

No! No! No!

The Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown occurred because TEPCO ignored the advice of experts and put the backup power generator in a location vulnerable to a tsunami. Despite being advised of the risks.

Similarly, the deluged Shinkansen trains did not need to be there. JR East had fair warning. If they had done their contingency planning, they would have known that the rail depot where the trains were stored would be vulnerable to flood waters. All they would have needed to do was relocate them to places above potential floodwaters.

However, as with so many things in Japan, PPA (potential problem analysis) and contingency planning always seems to be rigid and to not allow for the unexpected. So, these trains were dutifully parked in their base, without anyone ever thinking to double check and take some extra precautions!!

As for the location of the depot itself, well, its easy. Building an elevated depot for the once in 500 years flood is expensive. So, there you go.

Finally, the idea that this typhoon is somehow unprecedented is utterly false. Check out Typhoon Ida in 1958!!

Bottom line: The Shinkansen picture is the result of incompetence and negligence!!

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Those trains cost ¥28 billion each. Waterproof under the carriage. Waterproof doors which probably they are already. Then a wash down and ready to go once the flood waters are done. Depot alongside a major river?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

......sigh yeah the BS propaganda certainly grates!

These bullets trains in Nagano are what the generators in the BASEMENT are to Fukushima!!  Simple stupidity!

As another astute poster mentions above, with FULL KNOWLEDGE of a huge typhoon, services stopped, WHY ON EARTH were these trains not moved from the yard to tracks with higher clearance, TOO SIMPLE, yet I suspect have never have been on the minds of the "powers" that be at JR!!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Right next to the depot stands the elevated shinkansen track which was above the flood water level. NHK broadcasted warnings about dam openings and to move to higher ground many hours before, so there was plenty of time to put the trains on those elevated tracks. Just common sense but of course nobody in charge has the guts to make that decision.

The damage it cost, trust me some heads are gonna roll.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The deluged bullet trains show the lack of common sense and ineptness of JR East management.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Why didnt they just move the trains to an area where there was no risk of flooding? Couldnt they have shifted them to a part of the track that was more elevated? Japan still pulling the 'soutegai' card, even after Fukushima. Such a joke.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Most of you guys don't know how people work or operate in this country. People have not been brought up to think and use their common sense as the situation requires, they check the nsnual and if it isn't written in the manual, they won't use their brain.

They are no better than robots that are programmed to do just what they are programmed to do.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

The damage it cost, trust me some heads are gonna roll.

I don't see that happening. They were parked were they where supposed to be parked.

There was no precedent of such a flood so they think they will be flooded, a replay of fukushima.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

No it is not. It shows poor decision making.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I don't know, I think it shows that nature vs lip-service, nature wins

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The article uses climate science, a modern field, to suggest that other forms of modernization have made people complacent and left them exposed. Modernization, in the general form of science, told us the typhoon was coming days in advance, it tracked the typhoon for us, and built the levees, most of which held and limited the flooding. People have always lived on flood plains in Japan. They did not appear there after heavy machinery gave us big levees.

While modernization has merely mitigated the damage, and many have still died, the same typhoon would have been much more deadly and much more fatal in a less modernized Japan. A few trains getting wet isn't much of a metaphor for anything. As other posters point out, expensive eggs in one basket is simply poor practice in a disaster-prone country.

That said, its good to see climate change mentioned. People need to understand that a 5% stronger storm or heatwave can mean a vast increase in damage. There are tipping points everywhere, levees breaking, crops failing, coral and other eco systems dying off. Its not a case of the weeds in your garden just being 5% higher.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I am sad as usual to see the deluge of negative comments on Japanese culture, government and so forth. And the slant of the article using Western scientists is also a bit sad. The best people to know Japanese weather patterns are in Japan . and finaly there is no scientific proof of climate change, there are shifts of weather and always have been ...we only have good records going back a ways before that core samples and tree rings are it. And historic records when they exist. there has been awareness of the dangers of bad weather and flooding and the threat to infrastructure in Japan for hundreds of years. In the "old" days wheeled vehicles except a few official ones were forbidden on roads to protect the roads from excessive damage.

It is sad to see the trains damaged, they are treasured parts of the much respected and supported train service and I am sure they will be repaired and fixed just fine. I suggest we keep commenting more positive in such a tough time. It would be nice. Andrespectful to those working so hard to deal with this tough time.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

The problem would seem to be that the depot was built on the old river course and the government issued hazard map for the area warned of a possibility of 10 meter flooding.

https://www.sankei.com/affairs/news/191014/afr1910140052-n1.html

6 ( +6 / -0 )

It shows poor decision making.

Does it? I'm not seeing that this was a poor decision myself - due to my not knowing what the decision was between. It could have been they moved all these trains here from an even worse location for all I know.

Fortunately however, we appear to have someone who does know what the choices were, and can tell us how this decision was poor, and why they should have known to take the alternative at the time. So please let us know.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Why didnt they just move the trains to an area where there was no risk of flooding?

I'm not knowledgeable on the specifics, but I can come up with a few potential reasons:

1) The reports of rain in that area were low

2) There had not been a flood there in recent history to give an idea it was necessary

3) There was not a better place to move them to

4) The logistics of moving said trains - getting drivers to come and move them in a typhoon, working around other trains and schedules prevented it

5) Or even that they did move as many trains as they could but ran out of time

And those are just possibilities I came up with off the top of my head. Reality being what it is, there are likely dozens of other complications that could explain why they weren't moved.

Unfortunately, foresight is not 20/20. And reality isn't perfect. Not that you'd know it from the expectations of JT posters though.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Could this not be the point to give these ¥28 billion wagons a long overdue scrub, I don't mean that to be cruel or disingenuous to the families of the lost loved ones. I am just pointing out, these so called natural disasters can be turned around. to serve a purpose.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

That depot is the only one on that line in Nagano. Why construct next to a major river? There are many long tunnels on the Nagano route.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

When the last typhoon at those region was more strong wind and this one of rain storms and of too much water to break the rivers banks...Who will know what is going to be the next? Wind, flood? Well, crystal ball is needed...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What can one post that shouldn't be said again that speaks for itself posted by Yubaru and Zones2surf except for:

re: The typhoon that ravaged Japan last Saturday hit with unusual speed and ferocity, leaving homes buried in mud and people stranded on rooftops. But nothing spoke more of the powerlessness of modernization against natural disasters than rows of bullet trains deluged in floodwaters in Nagano, a mountainous region.

This is why it is important to elect highly skilled, trained and competent decision makers, planners and organizers during elections and have the proper high skilled Ministerial level positions filled by those who understand issues important to Japan and not themselves or ride on the coattails of their Daddy's such as Koizumi's comments about the environment being "sexy and cool", well I don't think the folks the experienced the wrath of the storm think that the Typhoon had anything sexy or cool to offer.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There is a long history of flooding from the Chikuma/Shinano river.

"According to the records in the Keichou Era, about four hundred years ago, the Shinano River was known as a habitual flood area. Once heavy rain fell, it had caused terrible floods, broken the bank, swept all property away, and killed people and animals."

http://www.hrr.mlit.go.jp/shinano/english/basin/flood.html

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Does it? I'm not seeing that this was a poor decision myself - due to my not knowing what the decision was between. It could have been they moved all these trains here from an even worse location for all I know.

As Hellokitty pointed out, the hazard map for the area that train depot is indicates it is vulnerable to floods 10meters high. Which mean

s that JR didn't look at the hazard map or did but brushed it off that it won't happen.

I don't see the reason for you coming up with flimsy excuses.

I see nothing but complacency on the part of JR.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

They say that hindsight is 20/20; I'll wager someone wishes they had parked those bullet trains on higher ground.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan's technological prowess and meticulous attention to detail

Does any other country praise itself as much as Japan?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

“Japan's technological prowess and meticulous attention to detail...”

except when the details warn of how taking ACTUAL preventative steps against floods and other disasters will cost more. In those cases it’s, “Well, so what if the train yard is between two large river?”, or, “Who cares if the old-folks home is at the base of a mountain?” Or, “So what if we’re building the housing units a few meters below the height if the river? These are all unconcerning details!” or even, “Bah! We’re building this NPP on top of an active fault line, you say? That’s not what matters!”

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I was talking to a good friend the other day, his brother is a professor at a uni, and his comment was my brother does not have any common sense, and he had a theory, its like this, he said to get more thinking power into his brain, there is some where a "delete button" in his brain, so to cram more super intelligence into his brain he hit the delete common sense button, although his brother is very intelligent when it comes to common sense he's dumb as ( expletive ) so I am wondering all of these top design engineers suffer from the same problem, they can build a super complicated train, build rockets, build tall buildings, but don't see that its very close to two rivers and might just get flooded, most of use would have thought this and built it a couple of meters higher.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'm tired of excuses. Too many over the years, protecting the so-called professionals who weren’t able to foresee situations. Why keep trains in low lying areas when the typhoon was predicted to be as big as one 60 years ago? Fukushima power plants were placed in a place known to be over a deep fault, etc. What are engineers paid for? Who’s hiring and accepting their poor judgement? More corruption? I hate to think what will come along with or before the Olympics.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I'm going to assume that these trains could have been moved in time to higher ground, but whoever makes the final decision to move the trains was not around to "hanko" the move. Or...perhaps moving the trains to a different place requires a safety stamp and location inspection from the prefectural safety board and while they could have moved the trains, no one wanted to lose their job by moving them without authorization. Or...maybe moving the trains to some remote location would have required that a security guard be there and they just couldn't find anyone willing to work during a typhoon on short notice.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Lesson learned is that the trains would have survived better on the raised tracks. There isn't any "higher ground" because the track is level and when reaching a mountain enters a tunnel and there are many on the Nagano section.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Notice the elevated, not flooded, tracks on the left of the picture. Four of the trains could easily have been moved there. Five minutes work, at most.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Scrote - yes, those elevated tracks were dry, they were probably part of the mainline, and deemed at more danger from exposure to the high winds rather than the sidings below.

Those of us living within Large Cities largely escaped disaster, as most of the infrastructure costs have been spent there rather than out in the sticks. However Post-Typhoon, even now shelves are still bare in some City stores - which may start to make people to raise questions about food security in such events... and ask why were flood defenses not strengthened rather than the huge spend upon some stealth fighter jets which for a peaceful nation would seem to be a contradiction.

The "Get Out" statement is targeted at whom exactly ? Being written in English here, makes me think it's a bit of scaremongering, but if if was rephrased then that may probably have been what was intended.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The main tracks have sidewalls like on the expressways.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thank god Mr Trump is around to explain the true nature of this devious Chinese hoax.

I'd be seriously worried, otherwise!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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