Sunday, March 20, 2011

A week has passed since Japan's 2011 quake occurred

My experience, far from the earthquake center

The massive earthquake came at 14:46 on Friday, March 11th in Northeast Japan. The quake center was about 1000km(600miles) away from my residence in west Japan.

At that time, I was on my business trip to a city which is located at more western area from my living place. So I couldn't feel the shock of the quake. When I heard that a member of telephone conference starting at 15:00 talked about the news, I realized what had happened.

I am a salesperson and a controller for my company's twelve call centers which are in charge of my client, so I exited the conference and contacted my client and stop operations of the call centers because they are sales promotion centers, not customer support ones. My clients' products are not living necessaries. Therefore my clients decided that sales promotion in confusing situation made the company's image bad. It was a busy work, but not serious. All offices and centers of my company are located in west Japan, far from the quake center (My company used to be one company but Japanese government divided it into east and west.).

However, I was shocked by my twitter timeline, not by the TV or newspaper websites. Broadcasters and newspapers told us only "a big earthquake occurred". On the other hand, my friends in Tokyo, only 200km (125miles) away from the quake center, tweeted their conditions via Twitter. They were frightened and confused. Many waves of quake shaking were coming. Most public transportation stopped. At last, some of them went home on foot even though it took three to six hours*, the others stayed at their offices. Tokyo people could tweet, but northeast people (near the center) couldn't tweet. My boss "predicted" that all victims would be counted over 100 at the same evening. My boss and I realized it was serious, but didn't realized its true condition.
*Those who use Twitter could exchange transportation information, but other people couldn't (mobile voice network broke in Tokyo at that time.). The next day, many friends of mine who didn't use Twitter began to use it.

From midnight to next morning, the news reported the devastation of northeast area. They said victims and missing persons would be over a thousand (a few days after, the counts was over ten thousand, and now over 20,000). In addition, nuclear plants near the center were broken. I finally realized that this earthquake is the worst and the most serious natural disaster in Japan, in these hundreds years even though my everyday life never changed. The only encouraging news were messages from nations all over the world. Formal messages of nation's leaders, articles of mass media like that, in particular world's ordinary people's tweets with the tag "#prayforjapan" encourage us.

What I can do

I think over what I can do. Of course, donation was off the top of my head. To know the amount the sufferers need, I researched the amount of the emergency budget for 1995 earthquake in west Japan (victims over 6,000), divided it by Japanese population and multiplied it by three (my family members' number). I donated the amount to the Red Cross as the result of the calculation.

Only that? The government restricts amateur volunteers for a while because they will be obstruction of professional rescue in infrastructure-broken area.

Tokyo people are under a hard condition – the lack of electricity because of many power station including nuclear plants are broken. Tokyo Electric Co. controls "planned blackouts", the company deliberately stops electricity some areas in rotation to stop all area blackout. It makes Tokyo people's life, business and other all activities confused. You might think that west power plants should provide electricity to Tokyo and northeast. But it is impossible. The reason why is the difference of the frequency of AC (alternating electric current) between east and west Japan. Why different? 120 years ago, in the beginning of Japanese industrialization, east Japan electric company purchased a 50Hz generator from Germany, west Japan company purchased a 60Hz one from the US. Around that time, Japan had no technology information. So now, people in west Japan can't support people in east Japan in a serious lack of electricity.

About the problem of nuclear plants, maybe I can only pray for the staff who devote all their energies to settle down the plants.

In my opinion, as for people who are far from northeast Japan, all you can do for the sufferers at present is to activate the economy by your jobs and everyday life, except donations. Do the best at your work, buy things your family and I need or want.

Furthermore, the most important point is imagination. I keep collecting information and imagining the pain, sorrow and inconvenience of sufferers and survivors.

In addition, it is also important and meaningful to expand my concern about not only this quake, but also other world's issues. I make this expansion my pray for victims.