The long-term consequences of natural disaster

I never dreamed I would experience the multiple effects brought about by the massive earthquake that struck Japan on March 11, 2o11. It was a day like no other when at about 2:44 p.m., I noticed that the building I was working in lightly shaking. At first, I wasn’t even slightly startled, but then the building began shaking violent for what seemed like eternity.

I was on my way to lunch as the violent shaking occurred. Walking down from the third floor stairwell was as if the stationary stairs had transformed into an escalator filled with dangerous obstacles in its path. After finally reaching street-side, I felt a sense of relief for a few minutes before the earth started shaking violently again. It was only then that I realized the psychological trauma would be felt for days to come.

The media, though rightly so, compounded the psychological trauma by replaying the destructive images of tsunamis wiping out villages and cities. At the same time, earthquakes triggered gas fires that literally burnt down cities. It was only a day later that the gravity of the situation would continue to be compounded by the failure of nuclear reactors to cool nuclear fuel rods (and at this time, the race is on to prevent catastrophic nuclear meltdown).

To a large extent, Tokyo has been spared for the moment except for the daily irritations of rolling blackouts, a week of food and bottled water shortages, and continuous aftershocks. However, there has been some reports of radiation contamination of food and water supplies. What remains unquantifiable is the psychological damage and what impact it will have on the Japanese psyche.

The economy has been undergoing nearly two decades of stagnation. With the fear sparked by radioactive contamination, recovery may be unpredictable since Tokyo is a global economic output center. Normalizing may also take some time. Will getting on with it be enough?

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