Little more than a year since powerful earthquakes rocked Haiti and Chile, and barely two weeks after an earthquake toppled buildings in Christchurch, New Zealand, an even more powerful earthquake (now rated at 9.0 magnitude) and resulting tsunami have caused widespread destruction in northeast Japan, in and around the city of Sendai.
According to news reports, operations and inventory at several pulp and paper mills have been affected by the earthquake and the resulting tsunami:
- Mitsubishi Paper Mills halted production at its main mill in Hachinohe after the tsunami flooded portions of the first floor.
- Nippon Paper Group halted operations at several mills in the Tohoku region, including its Ishinomaki mill, which is removing sediment deposited by the tsunami. Operations also have been halted at the Iwanuma, Nakoso, Fuji, and Akita mills.
- Hokuetsu Kishu Paper halted production at its Hitachinaka mill in Ibaraki Prefecture because of equipment damage.
- Oji Paper halted production at its Nikko mill and at four converting plants.
Pulp grades affected include bleached hardwood and softwood kraft, thermomechanical and deinked pulp. Paper grades affected include newsprint, uncoated mechanical and woodfree paper, printing and writing paper, packaging paper, kraft linerboard, and others. Short-term, Japan may need to import pulp and paper to compensate for lost inventory and production capacity.
A particular concern in the days after the earthquake has been damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the risks for radiation leakage and possible explosions. Emergencies have been lifted at other nuclear power plants affected by the earthquake Because nuclear reactors supply 25% to 30% of the electrical power in Japan, rolling blackouts are occurring in parts of the country until capacity is restored or shifted to other plants.
Initially, the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear concerns likely will slow or curtail Japan’s economic growth, but recovery and rebuilding efforts are projected to bolster economy growth by the end of the year.
Of all nation’s, Japan would be considered one of the best prepared to withstand and recover from natural disasters such as this. Even so, the destruction and loss of life has been enormous. We are awed by the images from the region and touched by the suffering.
The Japanese will make further improvements to their preparedness planning as a result of lessons learned from this disaster. A question you might ask yourself is, how well might you or your company survive a similar event, and what should you do now to increase those odds for survival.