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It's not quite the "yellow submarine", it's designed for travel on the water rather than under it. But this, rather cramped, bright yellow pod could be the difference between life and death The pod, appropriately named "Noah"-- after the biblical captain of the ark--is the creation of Japanese inventor Shoji Tanaka.
Cosmo Power Co. President Shoji Tanaka crawls out from a spherical earthquake and tsunami shelter "Noah" made of fiber enforced plastic at the company's factory in Hiratsuka, west of Tokyo, Friday, Sept. 30, 2011. [CNTV]
After last spring's killer tsunami, which claimed as many as 20,000 lives, Tanaka decided to build a personal flotation device that could survive both an earthquake and the tsunami that might follow.
President of COSMO Power, Shoji Tanaka, said, "At the beginning, I made it as a hemisphere which I thought to be the best shape to survive earthquakes, but it was vulnerable to tsunami because it capsizes. So I changed it to a perfect sphere and made it also easy to be carried by men and easily accessible."
Roomy, it's not. "Noah" is about 4 feet- or 1.2 meters- in diameter, with one hatch, one glass window and two holes for drainage and ventilation. But it's inventor says it does the trick-- which is to keep water out, to keep its occupants afloat, and protect them from runaway debris. And it's small enough to fit inside an average Japanese house.
Shoji Tanaka said "Kids will love playing inside it, and those who're anxious about earthquake will find peace in their minds by just keeping it in your house." Tanaka knew he had to build something that was both strong and easily accessible. At a workshop southwest of Tokyo, Tanaka uses Fiber Reinforced Plastic to create the pod, which he says is stronger but lighter than steel. He also made it yellow, so it would attract the attention of rescuers.
Employee of COSMO Power Yuichi Ashizawa said, "At least, people sheltered inside this ark will have some time to take a breath and get ready for the worst to come." There appears to be demand already for "Noah". The company says it has orders for 700 of the four-seater pods, largely from families, waterfront businesses and fishermen who see the ark as a lifeboat. The ark sells for between 3,800 and 4,500 U.S. dollars. one piece of household furniture that Tanaka says, could save lives.