Japan Battles the Elements; Earth, Water and Fire

The war in Japan has been over for more than sixty-five years, but if you didn’t know any better you might think the war was still going on, judging from some of the images we’ve seen in the last few days. The 8.9 magnitude earthquake on Friday was so powerful that it shifted the entire main island of Japan as much as two meters. And yet, most of the damage has come from the subsequent tsunami that flushed away miles of the northeastern coast of Japan.

As if the two simultaneous natural disasters weren’t enough; six nuclear reactors in three different plants were still overheating, with two of them being pumped full of seawater in a last ditch effort to avoid a meltdown. A partial meltdown in at least one of them is still highly probable.

As of Sunday evening 1400 people are confirmed dead with another 1700 injured. The number of dead is expected to rise with 9500 people unaccounted for in the town of Minami Sanriku alone. At least 1.4 million people are without running water and another 1.9 million people are without electricity.

The government has doubled the number of soldiers deployed to the aid effort to 100,000 and sent 120,000 blankets, 120,000 bottles of water and 29,000 gallons of gasoline plus food to the affected areas.

More than 50 different countries have pledged to aid the people of Japan by supplying search and rescue teams and other logistical support.

It’s always hard to accept the suffering of men, women and children no matter the circumstances, but when it happens in one of the world’s top economic power houses it always seems to hit us a little bit harder. Last year’s earthquake in Haiti measured 7.0 and was in all likelihood ten times more deadly then the more powerful 8.9 that the Japanese received a few days ago, but I guess the average person can be just as affected (if not more so) by the destruction of expensive infrastructure as they are by the cost of human life.

As heartbreaking as the news from Japan has been, I have to say at the same time that it couldn’t have happened to a nicer country and it couldn’t have happened to a better country. No country in the world is as prepared for earthquakes as Japan and for that their people should be proud and thankful. An 8.9 earthquake anywhere else on earth could have looked like something out of the Book of Revelations. It just goes to show how far a few extra dollars can go in protecting the citizens of a country. Unfortunately for the people of Japan, no country can properly prepare for a tsunami that hit so quickly.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Japan said in an address to the nation that the twin disasters have brought Japan its worst crisis since the Second World War. With the temperature dipping below zero in parts of the tsunami hit north, the situation is indeed dire, but unlike in Haiti, the wealth of Japan makes the situation far from hopeless.


Before and after photos: http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/03/12/japan.before.after/index.html

Despite Japan’s relative wealth, there is still an urgent need for donations to help those affected by the twin disasters. Please consider contributing to the Humanitarian Coalition (Oxfam, CARE and Save the Children).

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