Monday, August 30, 2004

Typhoon TV

TV is fascinating during typhoons. The different channels handle it differently. The staid and serious NHK (public broadcasting) has more staid and serious reports, and always have the latest updates on deaths and injuries. It is the more sobering channel, although they also seem unable to resist the inside out umbrella thing, and the windswept reporters. They just do it more seriously. (In other words, they still overdramatize like mad, but they do it seriously.)

Just now, however, I watched a rather dramatic bit of footage on one of the other channels. I was channel surfing and can't remember which channel it was, but they were showing seaside hotels being bombarded with huge waves, and roads that were completely under water. This report was in English as well, and we had it on English mode. This can add a certain extra something to the reports, as the translators are working hard to keep up with the translating and don't have time to inject the appropriate expression into their voices. So you get dire news reported flatly, or an upbeat tone when a downbeat tone would have been more suitable, or a surprised voice when they clearly didn't know what was coming, and so on. They're translating on the fly, and it must be hard.

They showed a section of road that was completely underwater, and the reporter announced that people had been warned not to drive there but some people were trying anyway. They showed one car turning into the flooded road, and we got the translator saying, "The water is getting deeper, but the car still going forward. The water is halfway up the wheels, and getting higher, and... now he seems to be doing a u-turn."

That was clearly not interesting enough, so they switched the camera to a van turning into the same road. "There it goes," said the reporter, in the flat tone that tells you he's translating on the go. "The water is up to the hubcaps. Now the water is... er... higher. And the driver is... still going. It seems like he intends to... (long pause) ...keep going. And... er... now ... er... he seems to be... er... (much loooonger pause) ... (very surprised tone) ...drifting away!"

The van drifted away. It was a startling bit of video, to put it mildly.

While our mouths were still hanging open the camera then suddenly changed to a completely different picture, of a bit of road that had collapsed on the side of a hill. A police car and a truck had fallen off. The police officer was able to get out quickly but the truck was half buried and it took four hours to rescue the driver.

Meanwhile The Man and I were still mentally back there with the van.We wondered whether the TV crew had done anything to help. Had they just carried on filming as the hapless idiot drifted away? Or did they pay him to do that? What other reason could there be to drive your nice shiny new van into what looks like a river?

Around here it's not much worse than it was at 5.30. The wind is gusty, but not too bad. We've had a little rain but not much. Looking at the reports, the typhoon has lost power and the storm zone around the eye has shrunk a bit, and we're right on the edge of the projected path of that zone. This might be as bad as it gets. It might miss us altogether.

And it might not. There's a few hours to go before it passes us. We're on the east side, which is always the worst.

Just went down to watch the news again (I become an obsessive TV watcher when typhoons are heading for us), and NHK has gone inside-out-umbrella mad. I just watched about 15 umbrellas turn inside out, one after another. They interviewed one woman who was huddled on the ground with her friends, buffeted by wind and hanging onto each other. They were all laughing their heads off. She said she'd been knocked over the by the wind and her umbrella had been blown away.

My question: why do people bother with umbrellas at all, in this weather? I mean, really, it's insane. Umbrellas offer no protection in horizontal rain. And if you live in Japan, by the time you're ten you've probably seen several million umbrellas turn inside out in typhoons on TV, so it's not like you haven't been warned.

I have two theories about this. One is that people carry umbrellas in typhoons just in case a TV crew comes along, so that they can have five seconds of fame on national television. The other is that the TV crew carry the umbrellas with them, and hand them out to people so they can get some 'dramatic' footage of people getting their umbrellas blown inside out.

The problem with the 'dramatic' thing is that they've long since crossed the line from drama to comedy, and apparently haven't noticed yet.

In another report, the roof was blown off one man's house. He was interviewed, and said that he heard a terrible noise and knew immediately what had happened. I imagine he would have if his roof had suddenly disappeared. He added, somewhat indignantly, that this had never happened to him before.

More seriously, the toll is now five dead and four missing.

Tick... tick... tick...


tinyhands said...

Re: The disappearing van.
I don't know if most people realize that Houston is a very tropical city. We get a LOT of rain here, and it's aggravated by the fact that the city has allowed developers to remove all the trees, shrubberies, and other plantlife replacing it with concrete and traffic lights. No lie, there's a traffic light every 50m, but that's another rant. Thus, with nothing to absorb the water, it all stays on top and congregates in low-lying areas. At major-roadway intersections, the city has wisely decided to excavate the roadway. Each underpass is now a 7m-deep pool waiting to happen. And happen it do, while Houstonians blindly drive right into them, several times a year. I guess what I'm trying to say is that, like the Japanese with umbrellas in typhoons, we're not smart people.

Be safe.

Badaunt said...

Golly, are you sure you're not living in Japan? I thought this was the only place where they were so obsessed with concretizing everything.

The weirdest thing now is that after all the buildup and drama and warnings and so on, they are now informing us on TV that the typhoon has passed and is up in Ishikawa. We are out of the storm zone, now.

So why is the house still rocking? If anything, it's worse out there now than it was an hour ago.

(Luckily it's now 2.30am, so we probably won't have a million people rushing outside and being killed by fallen trees, flying signboards and house tiles because TV said it was safe.)