Japan’s earthquake recovery offers hard lessons for Turkey


TOKYO – Mountain of rubble and twisted metal. Death on an unimaginable scale. Sadness. rage. Relieved to have survived.

What remains after a natural disaster so powerful that it destroys the foundations of a society? What lingers more than a decade later, even as the rest of the world moves on?

The similarities between this week’s disaster in Turkey and Syria and the twin disasters that struck northern Japan in 2011 may offer a glimpse of what the region may have to offer. face in the coming years. They are linked by the severity of the collective psychological trauma, loss of life, and material destruction.

Total damage from Monday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake exceeded 20,000 deaths as regional governments discovery announcement of new body Thursday. That eclipsed the more than 18,400 people who died in the disaster in Japan.

That 9.0 magnitude earthquake occurred at 2:46 p.m., on March 11, 2011. Not long after, cameras along the coast of Japan captured the wall of water crashing into the Tohoku region. This quake was one of the largest ever recorded, and its tsunami swept away cars, homes, office buildings and thousands of people, and caused home meltdowns. Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Giant ships were dropped into the sea miles away in the towering wreckage of what used to be cities, cars overturned like toys amid crumbling streets and destroyed buildings.

Many wonder if the area will ever be the same again.

One big lesson from Japan is that a disaster of this scale never really ends. Despite speeches about rebuilding, the Tohoku earthquake left a deep wound in the national consciousness and the landscape of people’s lives.

The direct deaths from the earthquake in Turkey will level off in the coming weeks, but that is not necessarily the end.

For example, Japan has recognized thousands of others who have subsequently died from stress-related heart attacks or from poor living conditions.

And although hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent in Japan on reconstruction, some things will never come back — including a sense of place.

Before the earthquake, Tohoku was filled with small cities and villages, surrounded by farms, and ports filled with fishing fleets. This is one of the most beautiful, unspoiled coastlines in Japan.

Today, while the rubble of the earthquake and tsunami has largely been removed and many roads and buildings rebuilt, there are still many open areas where buildings have not been erected. , the farms have not been replanted. Businesses have spent years trying to rebuild their dwindling customer bases.

Like workers did in Japan, an army of rescuers in Turkey and Syria is digging through destroyed buildings, picking up twisted metal, crushed concrete and exposed electrical wires to find survivors. survive.

What comes next won’t be easy.

In Japan, pride can be felt at first about the country’s ability to withstand disasters. Everyone calmly stood in orderly lines to get food and water. They posted notices on bulletin boards in the destroyed towns with descriptions of loved ones in the hope that rescuers would find them.

After what locals call the great east Japan earthquake, the dead in Tohoku were left beside the rubble, neatly wrapped in blankets taped with duct tape, waiting to be taken away by Workers are still searching for survivors in the rubble.

The lengthy rebuilding process challenged this resolve. Work was uneven and sometimes painfully slow, plagued by government incompetence, petty arguments, and bureaucratic squabbles. Nearly half a million people have been displaced in Japan. Tens of thousands of people have not yet returned home.

The issue has infiltrated politics, especially as the debate continues over how deal with the consequences about the catastrophic meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Years later, fear of radiation pervaded and some areas of northern Japan have placed radiation counters in parks and other public areas. Officials and experts have yet to decide how to remove the highly radioactive molten fuel debris from the reactor.

There have been criticisms that the Turkish government has failure to enforce modern building codes for many years, even as it allowed real estate to boom in earthquake-prone areas, and it slow reply to disaster.

The years since 2011 have seen another setback, an official in Japan has admitted: an inability to help those hurt by what they’ve been through.

About 2,500 people are missing across Tohoku and people are still searching for the remains of their loved ones. A man has a diving license and has been diving weekly for years for evidence of his wife.

Photo albums, clothing and other belongings of the victims are still occasionally unearthed.

Perhaps the most telling connection, however, is the deep empathy shared by catastrophic disaster survivors and the gratitude to see strangers help ease their grief.

A team of about 30 rescuers from Turkey were present in the heavily affected town of Shichigahama for about six months in 2011 to carry out search and rescue operations.

The Shichigahama locals have not forgotten. They have now started a donation campaign for Turkey. This week, a man said he cried while watching footage in Turkey, recalling the ordeal of his town 12 years ago.

Mayor Kaoru Terasawa told reporters about Turkish aid workers arriving in Japan: “They bravely walked through the rubble to help find the victims and bring their bodies back to their families. Surname”. “We are still very grateful to them and we want to do something to repay the favor and show our gratitude.”

AP reporter Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this story.

Foster Klug, AP news director for Japan, Korea, Australia and the South Pacific, reported from Tohoku after the 2011 earthquake and has covered Japan since 2005.


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