Thursday, January 19, 2012

There is a tendency which I have, and which is shared by many, to let natural or human disasters slip out of consciousness after a certain amount of time has passed. Either I move on to the next disaster or simply allow myself to forget about the one which has passed. This is sometimes referred to as “disaster fatigue” and, at personal level, “compassion fatigue.” I wanted to share with you, in order to combat some of this “fatigue,” a first-hand account of the impact of the Japanese Tsunami. The student who wrote this report and sent it to me wishes to remain anonymous. I include with the report some photographs taken by the student. I did not want to add any comments at the end of the report, but feel free to comment as you feel fit.
John W. Martens

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I have been traveling around the northeastern part of Japan. In big cities, people live their usual life. And it is rare for us, visitors, to notice the remains of the Great Earthquake. However, once we travel into the countryside, especially the pacific coast area, there are many small communities totally destroyed and abandoned. These three attached files are pictures I took in a small fisherman's community named Taro in Iwate prefecture. Taro had been famous as a model city of preparation for a tsunami before the tsunami destroyed the whole community. They had built huge walls to protect against a tsunami, but the walls were easily broken by the first attack of the tsunami. I didn't know how big the power of waves could be before I saw the destroyed concrete walls.
Breakwater Destroyed by Tsunami in Taro, Japan

People are working for reconstruction. But people are forgetting the great tragedy. On TV, news of the current situation in this area is getting less and less. But here many people are still living in barracks and more than 1000 children lost either their father or mother, and more than 200 children are facing a difficult future.

Elementary School Destroyed by Tsunami in Taro, Japan

Honestly speaking, I cannot find what I can/should do yet. The damage is too huge to think of it comprehensively. But at the same time, it is often reported that personal support and unorganized aid cause problems and confusion. Everyone wants to do something. But in fact, it is difficult to find what we can do more than give a donation. And of course we know that a donation is not sufficient.

Taro Baseball Stadium Destroyed by Tsunami, Taro, Japan

We are powerless under natural disasters and also we are powerless in the reconstruction.  Each personal situation in this area is too delicate for us, outsiders, to "help" decisively. However, we travel by believing it is the first indispensable step to experience the situation here.