Japan steady, prepared in face of earthquake
Published: Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 14:03
I've seen it before. A massive wave, a child torn from her mother's side, destruction, dead bodies, with shelters and makeshift hospitals everywhere.
Sadly, this time I'm not watching a movie, but CNN's coverage of the record-breaking earthquake and tsunami in Japan; and never in history has it played out so vividly before our eyes, with a constant stream of videos shot by screaming survivors as the water raced toward them last Friday.
And if an earthquake and 35-foot tsunami weren't enough for a country, exploding nuclear power plants and radiation have been thrown into the mix, making it so unrealistic that it's hard to believe. The world sits and watches while the fourth nuclear reactor burns; the horror now seems to unfold in slow motion.
Japan's Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, says this is the most difficult crisis for the country since World War II.
On Sunday a 60-year-old man was found sitting on the roof of his house nine miles out in the Pacific Ocean. Thousands, including his wife, were not so lucky and still remain to be found.
This is no surprise when considering the force behind an 8.9 magnitude quake. It was so powerful that it actually moved the main island of Japan an entire 8 feet and shifted the earth on its axis by almost 4 inches.
The earthquake itself, however, was not actually the cause of the majority of the damage, according to UCF structural engineering professor Kevin Mackie, who worked as a research assistant in Tokyo during his doctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
Mackie said that the ground movement near Sendai, the city which was hit the hardest, was equivalent to seismic activity that is common in California, Utah and Nevada because the epicenter of the Japanese earthquake was 80 to 100 miles off the coast. The modern buildings in Sendai are equipped for this, and the older ones have mostly been retrofitted to hold up.
"This time there was less structural damage due to the strong shaking alone than the ensuing tsunami and surge," he said.
This tsunami and surge traveled miles past the shoreline and washed away entire communities, leaving 450,000 Japanese citizens homeless.
Though the water receded after Friday's shocking blow, it then covered those same northeastern beaches of Japan with about 2,000 bodies by Monday, bodies of loved ones who are now, sadly, no longer classified as "missing."
The Japanese, however, were extremely prepared. This is reflected in the projected death toll of 10,000, which is low considering the extent of the damage.
The Japanese culture is one of order and civility, and while it may seem to be a stereotype, this sought-after typecasting has been reinforced in the wake of this disaster.
The issues that occur in other cultures — including our own — such as panic, looting and even blaming are simply not taking place in Japan.
Regardless of this calm disposition, it is impossible for their economy to remain as composed. When markets opened on Monday the Bank of Japan poured $183 billion into the economy in order to avoid a total breakdown.
Unfortunately, even with this aid the uncertainty from the newest explosion on Tuesday at the nuclear power plant and the horrific announcement that followed — that the radiation level has risen substantially — it's hard for any institution, government or otherwise, to soften such a blow.
As for immediate relief, President Obama quickly promised aid and because of our close working relationship with Japan it was merely a matter of hours before American gear and manpower arrived on their shore.
We are not alone in this great effort; more than 100 countries and 14 international organizations have stepped up, not only for the good of helping those in need, but in our ever-shrinking world, as globalization links our societies more than ever before, in order to succeed individually it is necessary to have those we are involved with succeeding as well. This interdependence, while it may seem for many short-sighted Americans to counteract the fundamentals behind our country's inception, it is to most of us undeniable progress.
We are allies of Japan and regardless of whether it was moved eight feet closer to us or eight feet farther away, our efforts to help in this time of need will prove to further unite our two countries.