Lives for all us living in Japan changed from the moment the first terrifying earthquake hit off the North East coast of Japan on Friday 11th March. We all live near fault lines and most of us live near the coast as well, therefore as the images of the disaster were shown on television I was simply lost for words – unable to process what I was seeing.
Down where I live in Kyushu we did not feel any tremor and although there were warnings about a possible Tsunami this danger passed. Thankfully I was able to tell family friends I was okay, unlike many others. Further north in Tokyo and Yokohama where I had once lived for some years the cities were badly shaken, but there were mercifully just a few tragic deaths. (any death is tragic)
As I watched the local televisions news the tragedy unfolded before my eyes. The most striking moment for me was watching a Tsunami move into the coastal city of Aomori. At first as the water seemed to flow gently into the harbour and I thought briefly that the threat of a major Tsunami has passed.
By my initial relief turned to horror as the water in the harbour slowly kept rising and then spilled over onto the dockside. It then kept rising sweeping all before it and large fishing ships were pushed across the wharf into nearby buildings and streets.
I watched as people in cars struggled to escape and building were swept away. Were there people inside the buildings, did the people in cars escape? I could not know. But later as I found out, thousands of people in towns and cities hit by the earthquake and Tsunami waves did not escape and many thousands are still missing.
The images of the towns and cities devastated look very similar to the area where I live and this makes it emotion of the disaster almost overwhelming at times. In the towns that have simply been wiped out I know in my heart few people have probably escaped alive but I dare not think about it too much and just hope there has been a miracle.
The courage and character of the Japanese people has impressed me beyond words. Even as the terrible earthquakes struck emergency workers and ordinary people were trying to help others. Fire brigade crews for example frantically drove through the streets to warn people to evacuate even as the waves rolled into their town. Sadly we see today images of several wrecked fire trucks and one only hopes their brave crews escaped.
In the aftermath of the quake people have waited for days on the roof of their homes or at evacuation centres waiting for assistance. They queue up in an orderly manner for food rations and despite the continuing after shocks, have rallied to look for survivors even though many them have lost their own homes and tragically may also be unable to find family members.
Being safe in Japan brings with it feelings of guilt. I wish I could help in some way but it’s not possible at the moment. Japan is my home, I am permanent resident here and this tragedy has made me feel my deep connection to this land like never before.
Sadly when I look back to the place of my birth, Australia, I see Kevin Rudd attempting to use the tragedy to increase his international profile. His actions and words fill me with disgust. As the Japanese struggle to deal with thousands of people dead, thousands of people missing, entire towns devastated, oil fires, gas fires etc. he is main focus is to demand the Japanese Government provide regular updates on the status of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
We know why Rudd is doing this. It is to pump up his already inflated ego in an attempt to be a big international player. I will never forget how he has tried to use the tragedy in Japan for his own gain and I will do my best to make sure the Japanese people never forget it either.
Then there are the idiots outside Japan on Twitter sending out false information and some gleefully expressing happiness that a disaster had struck the nation. Some were even calling the earthquake an act of revenge for Pearl Harbour. Words can not express my anger when I read such comments.
The Japanese national broadcaster NHK (See – NHK World News) and the local news media have been providing coverage of the disaster in a compassionate and respectful manner. Sadly now as the foreign media rush into Japan like this is some media event, the reporting from these sources fails to display much empathy with the Japanese people.
I seriously question in situations where resources like food, water, petrol and electricity etc are scare why the foreign media should be allowed into disaster areas. If they can’t help find survivors why are they there? Why can’t they accept images and live television feeds from NHK or local media outlets? Why do grieving people need half a dozen foreign film crews sticking camera in their faces? How does any of this help?
If it’s a privacy issue for Google to take your picture for Street View then why it okay for the media to take a picture during a persons private moment of grief and then publish it?
The excuse from reporters that they are simply “doing their job” is no excuse at all and some of the biggest scoundrels in world history have also attempted to dodge responsibility for their actions by offering up the same excuse.
As each foreign reporter lands in Japan they can’t wait to send out messages in Twitter announcing they have arrived. Amazingly they also often send out an update on the situation in Japan even before they have made it into Tokyo! Their egos, arrogance and self importance are evident from the moment they land in a nation stricken by grief.
My already low opinion of the western media and the journalism profession has sunken to unmeasurable depths. There are of course exceptions and some journalists behave in an honourable way, but they appear few in number.
Finally my thoughts and prayers are for those affected by this terrible tragedy. I also have the utmost respect for all those working to save lives and deal with the aftermath of this horrific disaster including the many foreign aid agencies and rescue staff who have come to Japan’s aid.