Monday, March 14, 2011

Refinery Fire, Disease Threats, and Maybe-Melting Reactors in Japan

Cosmo Oil Company's refinery in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, is still on fire.

"Japan Cosmo Oil: Chiba refinery fire not yet out"
Risa Maeda, (Editor Edwina Gibbs), Reuters Africa (March 14, 2011)

"Japan's Cosmo Oil has not yet extinguished a fire at its 220,000 barrels per day Chiba refinery, a company spokesman said on Monday...."

The next news item shows that "not yet extinguished" should probably have been "still burning." From the looks of it, the Cosmo Oil Company executives decided to let the fire burn itself out.

Considering the risks involved in dealing with a massive fire like that, the Lemming thinks Cosmo Oil made a sensible decision. Particularly since the fire is apparently confined to the refinery.
"Fire at petrochemical complex in Japan" (March 13, 2011)

"Explosion has been heard at a damaged and burning oil products facility in northeastern Japan.

"3:19PM GMT 13 Mar 2011

"A large explosion has been reported at a burning petrochemical complex in Japan's earthquake-hit Miyagi prefecture on Sunday.

"The fire first broke out at the Shin Nihon Sekiyu facility due to the massive earthquake which hit northeastern Japan on Friday.

"Officials had decided to let it burn itself out and evacuated staff from the complex and residents in the vicinity.

"For the latest updates on the Japan earthquake and tsunami, follow our live coverage...."

The Lemming copies an entire article very rarely. In this case, The Telegraph seems to have decided that they don't mind folks accessing their content via the Internet - and I've left out some of the most important/interesting information: a video and photos showing the Cosmo Oil Company's refinery fire.

At the risk of stating the obvious: you many want to follow the links and check out coverage on your own.

Refinery Fire, Floods, Disease Threat

The news around here has focused on the Nuclear! Meltdown! situation at some of Japan's northern power plants. Understandably. From Godzilla to Hell Comes to Frogtown, folks in America have been sensitized to dangers facing our world: like nuclear power, killer computers, and zombies. And that's another topic:There's no doubt, in the Lemming's opinion, that and probably-melting reactor cores are health threats. So is a whacking great fire at an oil refinery.

Although not as visually exciting, the flooded mess along Japan's shoreline is a health risk, too. A big one.

Besides wrecked automobiles, boats, and buildings: the soggy debris contains dead bodies, and body parts. Also, the Lemming saw on today's news, a few folks who are still alive, but couldn't move. An elderly trio, for example, had spent 20 hours inside a car.

Recovering dead bodies isn't just a sentimental service: it's vital to keeping diseases from spreading. A short list of sicknesses that can follow a disaster like Japan's includes:"Leptospirosis?" It's also called mud fever, and that's another topic.

Some of that list are diseases more likely to spread in warm climates, which northern Japan's isn't, but in a way that just leaves more room for the cold-resistant microcritters to work in.

Is the Lemming trying to spread doom and gloom? No. The point of this post is that Nuclear! Meltdown! isn't the only issue that folks in Japan are dealing with at the moment.

As for some of the knee-jerk reactions to nuclear power: the Lemming remembers when television and the telephone were 'threats' of a different sort. The fact is, all technology is dangerous, in some way. But there's a reason why most folks stopped picking bark and berries out of the woods - a long, long time ago.

And that's another yet another topic.

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