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Japan rises from earthquake knockdown

Publication Date : 02-11-2012


It has been a year since Japan has been hit by the fourth most powerful earthquake in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900, but the country appears to have come out stronger from it.

The correspondent visited Soma, a coastal city at the Fukushima Prefacture, devastated by the tsunami triggered by the earthquake, and spoke with a number of local people -- to get a sense of their situation.

A temporary shelter has been set up for the city's inhabitants left homeless by the wrath of nature.

Only the elderly women of the families were on hand when the correspondent visited; the children were at school, the able-bodied were off to work.

The houses allotted via lottery were neatly set up, and the residents appeared to have created a nice homely environment.

“Trading has fallen substantially after the disaster,” said Tanaka, a shopowner at Sendai, who has been living at the government provided temporary housing.

She added that her husband had to switch to restructuring work -- to make ends meet.

The 62-year-old Owada, whose property has been ravaged by the tsunami, has been living in the shelter, too, with her family of seven.

Owada, whose daughter works as a nurse, said they do not have to pay any rent, only the utility bills.

“We are waiting for the city corporation to build houses for us at high land,” Owada said.

Another woman the correspondent met at the shelter was the 82-year-old Takahashi, who came from another seaside village, Haragama.

Takahashi, whose one son is on paid employment while the other works as a volunteer in a waste recycling plant, said they have to bear all living expenses other than the rent.

“It has been one and a half years. We want to go back to our village, but the government is not letting us as they think another tsunami is imminent,” she added.

Expatriate Bangladeshi Emdadul Haque said that although the tsunami-hit Japanese live in the government provided accommodation they do not take any hand-outs from the state.

“They have been earning their bread and also extending voluntary service in different recovery works,” Haque further said, to illustrate the industrious nature of the Japanese.

The recovery from the devastation was at the centre of discussions at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB), held at Tokyo from October 8 to 14.

A report, titled “Learning from Megadisasters”, prepared by the WB and the government of Japan, was presented at the meeting.

Japan learnt extensively from past disasters and losses this time were contained to a great extent.

The Meiji-Sanriku earthquake of 1896, one of the most destructive seismic events in the country's history, killed 40 per cent of the population in the affected zone, whereas 2011's earthquake claimed only 4 per cent.

Kamaishi, a small city, hit by tsunami waves as tall as 14 feet, had a fatality rate of 1,000 out of a population of 40,000.

But the rate among the school children was abnormally low: only 5 out of 2,900 primary and junior school students lost their lives, which is 20 times lower than the general public.

It was all thanks to evacuation drills and disaster risk management education, firmly entrenched in the school curriculum as a result of past natural calamities.

On March 11, 2011, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 occurred in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan's Tohoku region.

The quake shook the ground as far away as western Japan and lasted for several minutes.

A half hour later, a tsunami of unprecedented force broke over 650 kilometres of coastline, topping sea walls and other defenses, flooding more than 500 km of land, and washing away entire towns and villages.

The direct economic cost of the catastrophe was US$210 billion, with Japan experiencing a trade deficit for the first time in 31 years.

The GDP in the second quarter of 2011 dipped by 2.1 per cent from previous year, while industrial production and exports dropped even more sharply -- by 7 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively.


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