Reflecting and responding to Japan's disaster

16 March 2011

16 March 2011 - Reiko TominagaA rescue worker searches for bodies amongst the debris at Sendai airport. On 11 March 2011 a magnitude 9 earthquake struck 130 km off the coast of Northern Japan causing a massive Tsunami that swept across the coast of Northern Honshu. The earthquake and tsunami caused extensive damage and loss of life. Image credit: Adam Dean / Panos

There is nine hour time difference between the UK and Japan. When we take breakfast, they are coming to another night. The weather in Tohoku, one of the most affected areas by the disaster, is cold and snowing in some places. People lack paraffin oil for heating, and cannot receive sufficient daily supplies of water and food as the roads are choked with earth and sand.

No one could imagine such a catastrophe

Since 11th March, thousands of people have lost their lives and many more are still unaccounted for. Huge numbers of people are staying in shelters. Some have been evacuated as far as possible, to avoid the risk of a radiation leak. My family and friends are scared by the aftershocks, which are still continuing.

The scene I saw on television reminded me of pictures I'd only seen in history classes, taken after the war. Wrecks, trees and sand. I could not, did not want to believe it. No one could imagine such a catastrophe would happen in Japan. Rehabilitation from this devastation will take a time. Long-term support including psychological care for both those in directly affected areas and also those elsewhere in the country is likely to be necessary.

Student support and fundraising

Japanese students at the Institute of Development Studies and the University of Sussex have launched a fund-raising campaign (on Facebook) to support these victims. Donations are being collected every day in the University's Library Square, and will be sent to the Japanese Red Cross Society through the Japan Earthquake Relief Fund, which is comprised of the students from many UK universities.

The following is a word from one of my close friends, who was at Tohoku University when the big earthquake occurred and sent this message on the third day:

"We were safe, although the building was damaged extensively. I will pluck up heart, cooperate with others, and do as much as possible. This is important especially in such a situation. My brother working in a power company also puts forth every effort for retrieval."

We can do little for them directly, but we can do something.

This is a personal reflection from Reiko Tominaga, an IDS MA student in Governance and Development

Image credit: Adam Dean / Panos


BBC Sussex Breakfast News: IDS students Miki Kubota and Ayako Torii share their reflections and their families' experiences (2hrs16mins into the programme)