I am sure many of you share the horror I am experiencing as the images and stories come out of Japan following the earthquake and Tsunami on Friday. The continuing aftershocks are larger than many initial earthquakes that hit around the world; the potential remains for ongoing damage.

The death toll is officially over 2000 right now; realistically it will be in the tens of thousands. There will be a large number of bodies never found after being swept out to sea.

It was interesting to be in New Orleans following the earthquake. As I went to bed Thursday night, my phone flashed a message “earthquake in Japan”. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I started watching news coverage, but when I woke in the morning I turned on CNN.

Within minutes I was crying; my PTSD flared up. I soon realized that I wasn’t alone. Many of my friends in New Orleans told me that they were unable to watch TV or read the news. Some weren’t tuning it at all, while others were peeking in at as much as they can handle.It was good to not feel alone; to be surrounded by those who also experience emotional upset at a different level than the general public watching the news.

There are similarities with Hurricane Katrina. The devastation…the surge of water pushing away everything in its path…the destruction of housing, livelihoods…the loss of life… the images published by Google Earth before and after Katrina and before/after Japan are similar.

Large-scale disaster is not uncommon. The earthquake in Haiti last January saw (most likely) a greater loss of life, as did the Indonesian Tsunami. I saw a news report on the weekend that said many thousands of lives were likely saved by the emergency preparedness that exists in Japan.

NPR reports:

Income inequality rarely matters so much as it does when it comes to surviving earthquakes. Japan is a wealthy nation that can afford to build structures capable of standing up to sustained shaking. But places like Haiti, which was already one of the world’s poorest nations before its devastating earthquake struck, can’t.

Japan faces enormous recovery and rebuilding costs, but it can afford to pay them, says Roger Bilham, a University of Colorado geologist. “Basically, when you have an earthquake in developing countries, they die,” he says. “In the developed countries, they pay.”

In poor countries, Bilham says, badly constructed houses are “an unrecognized weapon of mass destruction.”

The preparedness stems both from having money as Bilham states, but also from lessons learned since Katrina. The vulnerability factor is lessened in Japan; it will be surely shown that the most vulnerable in Japan will suffer the most.

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A random collection of thoughts…my brain still struggles to process, as does my heart. My thoughts and prayers go out to those with loved ones in Japan and all there, trying to survive and find their family members.

 

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