Kobe 1995 and Haiti 2010 Quakes

Haiti’s pain following the recent earthquake is a terrible thing to witness, even from TV and computer screens far away.

We are reminded for a time of the awesome forces beneath the crust that move and shift, grind and bump, slip and slide.

Here in Japan, people are no strangers to killer quakes. In fact, today’s the 15th anniversary of the Kobe earthquake, when many thousands perished and large parts of the city were badly damaged.

I can remember watching the early morning NHK news in a mild state of shock because we’d just moved from the UK to the greater Tokyo area in Spring 1994. Small quakes in Tokyo were a gentle reminder of what could happen but I didn’t dwell much on what might happen if a bigger one were to occur.

As best as I can recall, I didn’t feel the shocks at all, as I was still asleep in a futon and the quake was very localized to the Kobe area.

In the aftermath there was much activity as rescue and recovery work began to gather momentum.

However, once the shock-and-awe reporting had peaked and the story slipped from global news networks (the Internet was still a digital babe-in-arms so people were very reliant on the mass-media in the main), Kobe’s people were left to get on with rebuilding their lives and livelihoods.

Over the months and years the Japanese media did frequently report on the reconstruction efforts in all its forms. Happily, out of such awful destruction and suffering, Kobe today seems to have largely recovered.

In my mind, that’s surely a testament to the will and strength that can be focused by a rich and technologically advanced nation on solving a huge problem.

In Haiti’s case this may prove to be a much tougher proposition although it’s encouraging to see the US and many other nations provide emergency aid. How the future unfolds for Haiti is not easy to say.

Despite my relative powerlessness to help, there are people and organizations who can focus the small efforts of many people. I’ve therefore decided to make a donation to an organization I’m familiar with Children International, as they’ve been on the ground in the nearby Dominican Republic for many years.

Children International’s primary focus is on child sponsorship and education but they also have contacts with relief agencies in Haiti and will be able to direct contributions to assist with medium to long-term aid. Of course there is also a need for immediate help and organizations such as the American Red Cross are in a strong position to provide that.