Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Post tsunami - the situation in the Sanriku

News is starting to filter in through unofficial (non NHK) sources about the extent of the disaster on the Sanriku. NHK - the national broadcaster - is sanitizing the news.
They are putting a human face to it - last night's news showed  a junior high school graduation ceremony being held in an evacuation centre.  Graduation ceremonies in Japan involve each student's name being called and a diploma being presented. The news showed the ceremony with a father receiving the certificate in place of his son who is missing presumed dead.  NHK has also talked about food shortages and the lack of essentials - blankets, heating.  But it's countered with heartwarming stories of people eating cup ramen (instant noodles) as their first hot meal. It's easy to get sucked into that - because it gives a warm glow that things are OK.

The reality is apparently a lot more stark. In contrast to the Hanshin earthquake in Kobe, the local govt. infrastructure has been obliterated and the means with which to distribute goods no longer exists. Because the distribution system remained intact, the mantra was send money not goods and he Red Cross worked with local authorities to source and distribute goods.  In this case though - unless the goods are taken in, there are none. In this case  though, the relief effort has been constrained by lack of petrol - police cars, fire brigade until the last two days or so have not had petrol.  It's not even clear that  all pockets of survivors have been found.  From the earlier photos,  you  can get an idea of the topography & settlement patters in the Sanriku and without doubt there would have been people who would have survived for days but were not reached by rescuers. It's not even clear if there are settlements that haven't been reached.

I've been thanked for the Australian search & rescue volunteers, but I have also been asked why they went home - not as an accusation, just as a question - ... I didn't have an answer.

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