Sunday, April 03, 2011

Think aloud: Japan quake, tusnami & nuclear reactor crisis (Part 2 - Friends and personal perspectives)

[From Part 1]

Whoever thought this up deserves a prize or something: Google Person Finder. This one is specific to the 2011 Japan Quake.
Google Person Finder: 2011 Japan Earthquake

There's now sites like, a" global missing persons search engine".

More about Social Crisis Platforms at the

[ASIDE: I wonder if some people will make use of those sites to deliberately make themselves "disappear"...]

Over at the IFLA mailing list, I learned of this page for "Libraries and Librarians", and reports on "damaged libraries information, photos, and librarianship in Japan".
for libraries and librarian - earthquake 201103 Japan

Perhaps more typical was the dissemination of information via mailing lists. Like the previous Egypt and NZ crisis, library-specific was also being discussed at IFLA-L.

On 13 March, two days after the quake struck, Ryuichiro Takahash, Chief of Library-user Support Section, Tokyo Gakugei University Library, shared insights on the situation faced by Japanese libraries affected by the quake (edited for brevity):
  • Fallen and scattering of library material
  • Damage to library facilities (windows, walls...)
  • Lack of response of Internet servers; unable to access the World Wide Web and e-mail
  • Staff members could not return home because of traffic stoppages
  • Libraries forced to close, or cut-back of servics
  • Power outages (unforseen and scheduled ones as well, to conserve power)
Good news--no injured persons.

The effort of researching about present damaging situation and recovery operation will continue from this time.

The Japanese Library Association, individual library institutions and many voluntary library-related persons will have this role.
For example, Mr. Makoto Okamoto open following website, for researching and collecting present information about damage... "savelibrary @ wiki", (written in Japanese)
[5 April, update: Ryuichiro shares with the IFLA-L list that members of the Japanese library community are still unable to communicate with many libraries in the Tohoku area, which was seriously damaged by earthquakes and tsunamis.]

It's a very human need to want to know if our friends and family are OK. Some news is better than no news.

When disaster strikes, I think the very first thought for most people would be, "Are my friends and family safe?" Or if they were the ones involved in the crisis, they would want to let their family know they are alright.

I found myself searching my Japanese friends' Facebook pages. And was relieved when they posted that they were safe.

My Japanese friend's Facebook updates has provided some very interesting insights for me. Hours after the quake, one of my Japanese friend posted that she was safe but was initially stuck in her office and couldn't get home.

She even thought she was going to die when the quake struck while she was on the 11th office floor. I could only imagine the terror.

A week later, one of her subsequent updates said she finally had hot water (she lives in Tokyo).

On 22 Mar (about two weeks back), I chatted online with another Japanese friend, Kanako. She was in Singapore when the quake struck. I was interested in her viewpoint. She gave me permission to share the following:
Kanako: Now, the biggest problem in Tokyo is lack of electricity rather than aftershocks. Some of my friends are a kind of aftershocks-phobia though. Imagine your ground shakes once a day... But they are not so terrible, my fine friends and news says

Kanako: ... we can't get any energy from the nuclear plants, electricity lacking is happening in Tokyo area... some thermal power station are also broken, so blackouts are unavoidable.

Me: How do you feel when people are praising Japanese society's civility in handling the crisis, e.g. no riots or looting.

Kanako: I agree with some parts of praising, but not all... ... I saw some bad fake info online. like attempt to trick people who wish to donate money

Me: but it's also true that vast majority of japanese people are not looting and damaging property.

Kanako: One thing I'm sure is Japanese are trained for earthquake better than other nation citizens. Turn off fire, Keep the exit open, Hide under the desk, Don't push people around you, don't run, and don't chat when you evacuate. We do many earthquake drills when we are in elementary school. And we know there is no 'safe place' when it's happened.

Kanako: We need to cooperate with others.

Good advice.

And I couldn't help but ask whether Singaporeans would display the sort of discipline and tenacity, if disaster does strike here.

My friend Kanako has also published this translation of someone else's blog post, originally written in Japanese. The author experienced the 1995 major quake that struck Kobe and the tedious road to rebuilding.

The author makes an interesting point of "sustaining our emotions". Which I understand to mean "sustained empathy".

Lest we forget.

The pertinent point was that it takes only an instance for a disaster to strike, but a much longer time for the recovery process. And that the aftermath of the disaster doesn't end just because the mainstream media has stopped reporting it.

As of this post, the world's media has largely shifted its attention elsewhere. My impression is that most reports are of the ongoing nuclear reactor crisis. And mostly articulated as statistics and monetary terms.

Still, there are individuals -- regardless of nationalities -- who are helping with fundraisers. My Singaporean friend, O., emailed:
As you know there was an earthquake on 11 March that led to tsunami and a nuclear plant leakage in Japan. Life has been very unsettling and tough for many Japanese, especially those in the affected areas in this cold season. There is a shortage of basic essentials such as drinkable water, blankets, gasoline and medication.

I hope you'll consider donating to the Japan Disaster 2011 efforts.

You may refer to the Embassy of Japan's website for ways of donating:

... Every bit counts.

Thank you.

Facts and statistics are just information. It's the personal appeals and insights that will bring the world closer.

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