Sunday, March 13, 2011

Order amid chaos

Images and videos of that record earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on Friday were just overwhelming. It may only be the world's fifth strongest in recorded history but it's shallow depth and proximity to the shore made for unparalleled impact.


Not that Japan was unprepared. Fact is, their people are relatively used to quakes, what with their country sitting on multiple tectonic plates. Moreover, the Japanese are quite the "experts" on such calamities. But nature's wrath was just too strong. For one, I don't know what level of preparedness could counter a 10-meter tsunami.

I hold a lot of respect and admiration for the Japanese people. Yes, they may be the kings and queens of weird and the quirky, but they are one of, if not the most disciplined, race I can think of.

Friday's disaster could have easily yielded panic elsewhere. Okay, they may have been panicking already but everything remained practically organized in Japan. Their government was quick to dispatch rescue and relief efforts. Helicopters were employed to pluck people trapped in buildings, survivors were evacuated on the very backs of rescuers, drinking water and blankets were made available, and now iodine tablets are being readied to slow down the impact of radiation on people (in the wake of an impending nuclear catastrophe).

Expected, one might think, but such wasn't the case with the U.S. when Katrina struck. It took so long for their government to get their act together when the victims were so helpless and dependent on them. (Ours in the Philippines is by no means any better but at least in times of calamity, the bayanihan spirit is instantly rekindled among Filipinos, with civilians working around an inefficient government to help one another.)

Efficient as the Japanese government as can be, it's how their people conduct themselves that struck me more. Take a look at how stranded commuters behaved, for instance:

They're amazingly organized! Even in videos I've seen of commuters waiting for buses, people were just patiently standing in line. If it were here in the Philippines, I could imagine a lot of pushing and shoving and running - just pure pandemonium. Oh, and some belongings are bound to be lost to pickpockets and snatchers.

I also saw footage of people lining up inside a convenience store in the most orderly manner possible, especially considering the store had no electricity. If it were here, there would again be lots of pushing and shoving. And looting, perhaps.

I couldn't even believe their evacuation centers were actually evacuation centers. Maybe I'm used to seeing messy cramped up spaces on local TV but theirs were just so clean and calm. Evacuees there also exhibited a sense of space, keeping a small yet polite distance between each other's sleeping areas.

Hats off to the Japanese! I can only pray that God alleviate you from your suffering right now, that you be given back the comfort that you deserve soon, and that you can get back up again like you always do. And my plan to visit Japan this year remains unchanged.


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