Shaken earth and stirred thoughts

(I)

The earth has been restless. Just a day before the 11 March earthquake in Japan, another quake shook Southern China in the Yunnan province. And who can forget what happened in Christchurch on 22 Feb. All these quakes within a short span of 3 weeks.

Went to South America last year. In Chile then, the memory of Concepcion’s earthquake in Feb 2010 remained vivid in people’s minds.

***

(II)

Overheard today:

“Never have I seen the nikkei futures index plunge so much in one day… given how Japan is prone to earthquakes, (one) would have thought more measures would be in place to prevent such a thing (nuclear leak) from happening.”

Many would readily agree that Japan is one of the world’s biggest economic powerhouses and  most technologically advanced countries. Long before the 2004 Boxing Day Sumatran earthquake and tsunami, the notion of earthquakes and tsunami has been firmly ingrained  in the Japanese  consciousness:- “tsunami” a.k.a. tidal wave, is in fact a Japanese word (津波 in kanji). The world is in awe of how the Japanese are so well-prepared for these inevitable natural disasters. Not just the seismic engineering feat and quake-proof buildings, but also the general public’s mental preparedness and orderliness.

Last Friday’s earthquake apparently caused radioactive leaks from nuclear plants in Fukushima. Has there truly been a lapse in safety measures as what some people say? That is for the investigators to find out.

But the devastation in Japan resulting from the earthquake and the tsunami alone shows that even with the ablest of preparations, one is vulnerable before the behemoth that is Mother Nature.

***

(III)

Read somewhere that the residents of the worst affected area in Sendai had 10-15 minutes warning before the tsunami engulfed. 10-15 minutes do not seem like a lot of time but at least there is a warning system. I wonder what I would have done in those minutes. Questions such as “which item would you save when your house is burning down” would be rhetorical – the answer is simple: me and my family! Except that how many people would be calm enough to think of “Run for your life”? Would I be too shocked to the bones and paralysed with fear? Hopefully the natural instinct of survival, adrenaline and fear will steer me to do the sane thing.

In Singapore, a public warning system is activated every first noon of the month. It sounds akin to bell chimes (probably so as not to alarm the public unnecessarily). But just ask people living in Singapore and see how many people actually ever noticed it even once!

***

(IV)

Was discussing a problem (not mine) with someone today. And as the other person said, in the face of unexpected scale of catastrophe that is happening in Japan and Christchurch right now (rescue efforts are on-going, and rebuilding communities and townships probably years on), the problem that we were discussing is probably not a big problem after all.

 

Here’s remembering the events of last Friday in Japan, in Christchurch, in Concepcion, in Sichuan, in Sumatra/Andaman, in Kobe… and many more.

 

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