By any definition, it's a calamity.
What has also been a calamity has been the reporting. From the time it was announced that the nuclear power plant at Fukushima had been damaged the focus of the media turned from the massive human tragedy to overblown hysteria about the possibility of a nuclear meltdown and radiation throughout the world.
Even the normally reliable The Australian newspaper has fallen for the anti-nuclear agitprop:
People are in dire need and yet this is the sort of drivel we get.
To be clear: there is zero, zip, zilch, nada, nil, none, no problem for anyone living anywhere in the world outside of the perimeter of the compound itself. None.
I happened to have dinner with a scientist who is expert on these matters and helps oversee nuclear safety in Australia a week or so after the tsunami in Japan and he was even more apoplectic than I was (which I didn't think was possible) about the media's reporting.
Even my old mum asked me about what was going to happen when I was driving her home one day. She was genuinely surprised that I said it was all hooey and no problem for anyone other than the plant operators and, politically, the government.
Such is the media hype and scaremongering that even the most senior Japanese politicians have to be seen to be on top of the nuclear plant issue and 'doing something' to protect the citizens. To 'do nothing', even though nothing needs to be done, is to commit political harakiri.
The tragedy is twofold.
Firstly, the Japanese government's attention is taken away, even for a short time, from the real task at hand and that is helping the people affected by the tsunami.
Secondly, those people who need help most from all over the world are not getting it due to the blanket media coverage of the nuclear non-event.
I agree with those who reckon that Fukushima will put back the nuclear debate in Australia by 10 years, such is the public's lack of understanding of the reality of nuclear power.
However, what a fantastic example of the true safety of nuclear power we have seen. Faced with an earthquake of much higher magnitude than engineers ever anticipated and a tsunami nearly twice as high (10m vs 5.5m or so) as what the plant was designed for the thing still shut down in an orderly manner, minimising the possibility of a large problem. Certainly, there have been problems that have needed dealing with. Given the scale of the problem that hit them it's hardly surprising.
But does the media tell us how remarkable a story this is of nuclear safety? No. Instead we get hysteria that radiation levels are 100,000 times normal while at the same time ignoring the fact that it's still many orders of magnitude below the level needed to cause a problem.
It's yet another example of how deeply the left's messages and propaganda have seeped into society that normally rational people would be so concerned by what is only a serious local issue.