Grace under pressure: Japan faces tough test from 3/11 disasters – quake, tsunami, meltdown…

Cartoon by Geneva-based Patrick Chappatte, who works for International Herald and Le Temps

Since Friday March 11 afternoon, I’ve been watching the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in Japan caused by multiple disasters — 8.9 earthquake, tsunami, dam burst, fires, and now the meltdown of three nuclear reactors.

Our heart-felt sympathy goes out to all Japanese people, among whom I count many friends. No nation deserves to be battered simultaneously like this by natural and (partly) man-made calamities.

Yet, few nations are better prepared and equipped to deal with such crises. Japan may be reeling right now, but things could have been far worse if not for their readiness to face emergencies both at individual and institutional levels.

Amidst scenes of utter destruction and dislocation, the Japanese people were reacting with the stoic calm for which Japan is famous. “What’s amazing is that everyone I saw — cops on their white bicycles, boys reading comics in alleys, kids walking home with their parents — appeared graceful under this unexpected disaster,” Tokyo resident Irie Otoko wrote to The New York Times.

But make no mistake: this is a big one as disasters come. The death toll is feared to exceed 10,000, and the property damage alone is likely to be tens of billions of dollars. The societal, economic and emotional costs are hard to quantify at this early stage.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I was walking the streets of Tokyo, enjoying the calm and orderly life in the modern Roppongi and the old world charm of Kagurazaka. But once again, Planet Earth has reminded us who is in charge.

And cartoonists are capturing the planetary sentiment with their usual economy of words.

Cartoon by Terry Mosher, The Star, Toronoto, Canada
Cartoon by Gary Markstein, Copyright 2011 Creators Syndicate
Courtesy: Cartoon Movement

Author: Nalaka Gunawardene

A science writer by training, I've worked as a journalist and communication specialist across Asia for 30+ years. During this time, I have variously been a news reporter, feature writer, radio presenter, TV quizmaster, documentary film producer, foreign correspondent and journalist trainer. I continue to juggle some of these roles, while also blogging and tweeting and column writing.

3 thoughts on “Grace under pressure: Japan faces tough test from 3/11 disasters – quake, tsunami, meltdown…”

  1. Nalaka:
    The sticism of the Japanese people is something we should all take to heart.
    No blame, simply a quiet acceptance of our vulnerability to mother nature and to our own false certainty in technologies like nuclear power, that from time to time reminds us we are not in charge here.
    The restraint and cooperation are a manifestation of “grace” in action…
    Well said..
    Thoughts and good will to the Japanese people…


  2. What do you think about the recent earth quake predictions made by Sri Lankan Professor from University of Peradeniya? It said to be based on relationship between the planetary configuration and its effect on earthquakes. I am little skeptic about it since at least there are no published research papers on this from him.

    Is this another popular attempt such as making petrol from water and polythene!?

    Hope you will give your thoughts on this via your valuable posts through this blog or in your “Rawaya” column.

    – Buddhika De Silva

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