I snapped these pictures a week ago from the front page of a local Bangkok paper. A couple days after the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, photos showing the damage and devastation started coming out. If not for Japan's uber preparedness for tsunamis, the death toll would surely be like this world has never seen. A 500-600 kilometer stretch of the Japanese coastline was affected by the tsunami.People in hospitals just kept going up to the next floor, the next floor and the next floor as the water rose higher and higher, trying to bring those in hospital beds, too injured or too old to move themselves, until they reached the roof. Many had to be left behind. For those who made it to the roof, the water kept rising.
No amount of preparedness could have saved some of them, who had mere minutes to make it to higher ground. And for those who sought the roof of a strong, sturdy 3 or 4 story building...very sad. The water reached the fourth stories of some buildings that were lucky not to be destroyed by the power of the waves. Ships were left on top of buildings, vehicles left teetering on the top of the fourth stories of some. Absolutely amazing, unexpected even for the tsunami preparedness groups who planned and set up all of the evacuation plans, meeting points, etc. How could they have known that something like this could have happened?Ten meter high seawalls, built specifically to defend small fishing villages against the power of the ocean, were tossed aside by natures ferocity.
Scientists are predicting "The big one" somewhere in California in the next twenty or so years. How do you prepare for something like this?
I've lived in Thailand since 2007, and have been to areas affected by the Christmas tsunami of 2004. The land has fixed itself, the people have buried their dead and continued their lives, the tourists are back, but everyone always has one eye on the ocean.
The Japanese are a robust people. They have shown the world a level of dignity, of community, of behavior in the face of what must seem like "the end of the world" circumstances, that must be admired. They will rebuild their ocean side fishing villages, they will again till and sow their fertile soil, they will mourn their families and friends who were taken by the sea. They will eventually be okay. But they will surely forever have one, or both, eyes on the ocean.