Japan

22 Mar

Still feeling the effects of the tsunami


Tomohiro Harada

A survivor of the tsunami

It has been relatively a quiet weekend in Tokyo, but up north, the civil defence force is still discovering 1000 bodies per day. We are missing additional 15000 bodies somewhere in the zone where the Tsunami struck and the overall death toll is expected to top 20000. People are still dying, because of the strong cold weather and snow in the region without electricity. Over 20 communities ‘disappeared’ and 10 communities are still isolated from the rest. Supply lines are being formed, but the commodity price in the North are hiking very fast. The government are trying to respond though increase in supply, but it is becoming increasingly difficult as various vegetables are being scrapped as a result of nuclear contamination.

Many people including international communities seem to take this as a lesson for the future. Japan is the most prepared country when it comes to earthquake. In fact, the earthquake alone has killed only few, but tsunami was unstoppable. Japanese east coast was well prepared for tsunami (tsunami is also a Japanese word). Even the wall which was put up along the shore was called the Great Wall of Japan. It has been discovered that over 90% of death is caused by drowning, and from the impact of the second wave that hit the land. Unfortunately, we were unable to match the strength of waves over 30m, but if we didn’t have the wall, damage could have been far worse. This might have been the best we could have done, but there is already a proposition to strengthen our coast line.

Nuclear debate is likely to take off in the near future. Nuclear energy supplies third of Japanese electricity. Japan’s choice to operate nuclear power plants does not usually make sense for anyone. More than 20% of earthquake over magnitude 6 in the world occurs in Japan. It is the meeting point of numerous plates that surround the earth and the mountains of Japan is geographically formed as a result of these plates stitching together, while the extravagant forces created thousands of volcanoes through the whole country. 50 years ago, the public sparked a debate over whether technology is capable of managing nuclear energy against natural disaster, but in the wake of this disaster, this debate is back on the table, and it promises a long debate.

It reminded me of Fontane’s poem, die Brueck’ am Tay.

In terms of nuclear matters, the firefighters, electricians, civil defence and police department are trying to resolve the matter as if there’s no alternatives. These men are exposed to nuclear radiation and they are using water hoses to directly cool down nuclear reactor through the holes which were created by numerous hydrogen explosions. This effort is quite remarkable, given that these men are putting their lives at great risk. They are not ‘Kamikazes’ like many international newspapers put it. They are our heroes and they will return alive and they will be recognised.

On the good news, the people in the affected areas are working together very well. Japan is quite known for it’s unfriendliness, stressfulness and long work hours, but this is the moment, when ordinary strangers become comrades. In a way, I feel the same in St. Andrews too. International Media has been asking why anyone is not looting anything from anyone. When my uncle heard this news, he first didn’t know what they were talking about, second he didn’t know such words and third, he didn’t know why they asked that question. My uncle said: ‘Everyone is morally constrained. One will know that he will go to the worst kind of hell.’

The tsunami clear-up

As I was flicking though some of the messages written by the people in search for their relatives, I found one particular message that moved my heart. This man, who claims himself as ‘S’ lost his wife and children in tsunami, while he was working in his office. Their death is now confirmed. But he leaves a message on the pin board.:

Dear those affected,

I have lost my new-born child and my beloved wife in Tsunami,

but despite this, I will live my life as the greatest father as they have known me.

Dear those affected,

It is painful and hard, but don’t give up!

This kind of spirit is everywhere in Japan, but this particular one must have helped many to renew their commitment towards recovery. The Prime Minister on Friday proclaimed this disaster as the worst disaster since the World War Two, but even then, our past generations stood up and recovered, and many dreams came true. We already know one thing: We know how to get over this.


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